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If you’re an adult living with a disability, you’re no stranger to overcoming obstacles. However, when it comes to becoming a homeowner for the first time, the process may seem especially daunting or stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. By creating a plan and being prepared with the necessary resources, you can make your dream of homeownership a reality.
This guide is designed to assist disabled first-time homebuyers, like yourself, in navigating the home buying process. You will find information on what your rights are, resources to help you understand the processes involved in finding a home, and advice on how to proceed if you feel your rights have been violated. Additionally, you will find resources to make the most of the opportunities available to you for purchasing a home, whether your plans are to buy your first house or to relocate from your current residence to your dream home.
Your rights as a disabled first-time homebuyer
Homebuyers with disabilities have the same opportunities as other homebuyers. The following resources provide valuable information on the rules and organizations designed to ensure that your rights as a homebuyer are clearly defined and protected under federal law.
The Fair Housing Act: Under The Fair Housing Act, discrimination against a potential homebuyer based on his or her disability is illegal. You also have a right to sturdy, accessible housing, even if you are physically impaired.
The Fair Housing Act also prohibits acts that discriminate against disabled homebuyers. This includes the refusal to sell or negotiate for housing or dishonesty about available housing. A housing provider is prohibited from creating extra criteria for a potential homebuyer to purchase a home. For example, a seller may not refuse to sell a dwelling to someone with a disability, nor can they tack on extra fees or extend the waiting period for the purchase of the home. This resource on housing discrimination under the Fair Housing Act provides information on what kind of housing the FHA covers, and the actions of a seller that are restricted by law.
The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity: The FHEO was established to enforce the rights of any homebuyer, including those who are physically or mentally disabled. They provide financial assistance to state and local agencies that have a proven record of enforcing fair housing practices to further protect homebuyers from discrimination.
Regulation B: Developed by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, Regulation B is designed to grant the right to credit lending regardless of factors such as race, age, or disability status. Regulation B also provides the rights of applicants to receive information on the status changes of an application and criteria used to determine whether a loan is approved or declined.
Responsibilities of a mortgage lender to a homebuyer
When buying a home, many people choose to borrow a majority of the funds from a lending institution, such as a bank or credit union and make an initial down payment for a percentage of the purchase price with money they have saved on their own. There are three basic steps that will occur when you inquire about or apply for a mortgage:
- The lender will run a credit check.
- The lender will determine how much you are eligible to borrow.
- The lender will assist you in applying for the loan, should you choose to do so.
It’s important to know that loan offers can’t change based on homebuyer disabilities.
The following resources provide helpful information on what the mortgage process involves, and what the mortgage lender’s responsibilities are to uphold your rights as a disabled first-time homebuyer.
- This guide goes into the specific details of what the mortgage loan process entails and how to get a home loan.
- A lender cannot discourage an applicant from applying for a loan based on a disability, nor can they alter the terms or conditions of a loan for this reason (such as increasing an interest rate or requested down payment amount). The lender may also not deny a loan for this reason alone.
- A lender must consider any public assistance income the same way they would consider any other source of income. The lender has the right to request information on any assistance from the Social Security Administration if you ask for it to be considered as part of your income on your loan application. However, unless the information provided by the Social Security Administration identifies an exact date when your benefit will expire, the lender must assume that the benefit will be continuous.
What to do if you feel your rights have been violated
Your homebuying rights are backed by the Department of Justice. There are severe consequences for lending companies or individuals who violate the rights of homebuyers with disabilities. The Department of Justice considers this behavior a serious offense, and there are many channels of how to report this type of discrimination. The following resources provide useful information on the penalties of unlawful behavior by a lender, and ways to report it to an authority.
In 1996, the Department of Justice provided information to federally regulated banks on what constitutes discrimination and how different situations involving discriminatory practices would be handled, either at an administrative or litigation level. Organizations that have shown a pattern of discrimination can have lawsuits brought against them by the Department of Justice.
If you decide to pursue legal action against a lender, it may be a good idea to contact your state’s attorney general. Using the National Association of Attorneys General website, you can identify and contact the attorney general for your state.
If you feel you are being discriminated against, you can fill out the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form and submit it online or mail it in. This resource also provides information on how to contact your local HUD office directly.
Programs for assisting disabled first-time homebuyers
While purchasing a home may be a daunting process for any potential homebuyer, there are many organizations, programs, and specialists who can make the process easier for those with disabilities. The following list provides information on many of the resources available that can help make the dream of owning a home a reality.
- It can be beneficial to seek the guidance of a housing counselor if you are disabled and pursuing the purchase of a home. HUD provides this service for free or at a very low cost.
- The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which was created to help those in need to find affordable homes, has a government-insured loan program with approved lending institutions. These loans are available to qualified disabled homebuyers.
- The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers two different grants to current service members and veterans who have disabilities related to their services in the armed forces, the Specially Adapted Housing Grant and the Special Housing Adaptation Grant. For those who qualify, these can be used for the purchase or construction of a new home, or the modification of a currently owned dwelling.
- Habitat for Humanity often builds homes that are affordable for those who are disabled or have a disabled family member.
- Disabled World, an online community devoted to sharing helpful information on a variety of topics to those with disabilities, offers a list of programs offered by different states that may be beneficial to disabled homebuyers.
Additionally, there are many other programs available specifically for low-income and first-time homebuyers for which those with disabilities may qualify.
Additional helpful resources for disabled first-time homebuyers
There are many aspects to both choosing and buying a home. If you are disabled, there are a few additional details to contemplate. The following resources provide beneficial information on the different facets of purchasing a home.
- Before you begin searching for a home, you should have an idea of what you are able to spend. This calculator will help you figure out how much house you can afford.
- To successfully apply for a mortgage, it’s important to understand your credit score. This resource provides access to a free annual credit report from the three major credit bureaus, which are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
- This guide offers step-by-step instructions on how to buy a home, from getting pre-approved for a mortgage, to touring homes with an agent, to making an offer and closing the deal.
- HUD offers many different housing counseling agencies, with services ranging from budgeting for a home purchase, the lending process, and general homebuyer education. This resource lists HUD-approved housing counseling agencies by state.
Under the Fair Housing Act, you have a right to a safe home that meets certain criteria. The following resources can be used to help you determine the safety of a home you wish to purchase or the one in which you currently reside:
- This resource provides a checklist for ensuring your home is safe for those with physical disabilities.
- The Center for Disease Control provides a home fall prevention checklist for older adults.
- This guide offers information on grants for home modifications for disabled first-time homebuyers.
Your disability should not deter you from reaching your goal of becoming a homeowner. Understanding your rights, knowing what financial opportunities exist, and being aware of what agencies are available to support you in your journey should grant you a sense of empowerment and help you on your path to homeownership.