Massachusetts law about disability rights in housing

Laws, regulations, and web & print sources on disability rights in housing (owning and renting).

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for, or if you have a specific question, please contact our law librarians or the Massachusetts Office on Disability for assistance.

Table of Contents

Best bet

Disability, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

Disability rights in housing, Massachusetts Office on Disability.

Massachusetts laws

Main laws

Article CXIV of the Massachusetts Constitution
Added in 1980. "No otherwise qualified handicapped individual shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity within the commonwealth."

MGL c.93, § 103 Equal rights; age and handicap; violations; remedies
Mass. Equal Rights Act (MERA). Everyone in the commonwealth, regardless of age or handicap, has the right to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold and convey real and personal property.

MGL c.151B Unlawful discrimination because of race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry or sex
State law also prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

MGL c.151B, § 1 Definitions
Definitions include the terms "handicap", "qualified handicapped person", and housing terminology for the purposes of c.151B.

MGL c.151B, § 4 Unlawful practices
Prohibits discrimination against protected classes, including people with disabilities.

  • § 4(3B) Prohibits discrimination in mortgage lending
  • §§ 4(6) and (7) Prohibits housing discrimination (renting, buying & selling)
  • § 4(7A) Reasonable modifications
  • § 4(10) Prohibits discrimination against recipients of government assistance

Additional laws

MGL c.12, § 11H Violations of constitutional rights; civil actions by attorney general; venue; compensatory damages; fees and costs; civil penalties

MGL c.12, § 11I Violations of constitutional rights; civil actions by aggrieved persons; costs and fees

MGL 40A, § 3 Subjects which zoning may not regulate; exemptions; public hearings; temporary manufactured home residences
"Local land use and health and safety laws, regulations, practices, ordinances, by-laws and decisions of a city or town shall not discriminate against a disabled person."

MGL c.59, § 5 Property; exemptions
State-level property tax exemptions for individuals who own property who are legally blind, as well as for veterans with varying levels of disability. Check with your city or town for local exemptions or abatement programs being offered.

MGL c.93A, §§ 1-11 Consumer protection statute

MGL c.121B Housing and urban renewal

  • § 1 Definitions
    Defines ''Handicapped persons of low income'' and ''Elderly persons of low income" for the purposes of c.121B.
  • § 39 Power to provide housing for elderly and handicapped persons of low income; priorities in placement
  • § 40 Provisions applicable to housing for elderly and handicapped persons of low income

MGL c.188, § 2 Homestead protection for elderly or disabled persons

See also: Law about service animals

Massachusetts regulations

220 CMR 25.00 Billing and termination procedures of the Department of Public Utilities

521 CMR Architectural Access Board

760 CMR 5.00 Eligibility and selection criteria

760 CMR 47.00 Non-discrimination, equal opportunity, and affirmative furtherance of fair housing regulations governing recipients of department of housing and community development financial assistance

804 CMR 2.00 Discrimination in housing

See also: Massachusetts city and town ordinances and bylaws
Check local ordinances and bylaws for fair housing laws adopted by your city or town.

Federal laws

12 U.S.C. § 1701r-1 Pet ownership in assisted rental housing for the elderly or handicapped (Federal Pet Law)

29 U.S.C. § 794 Nondiscrimination under Federal grants and programs
Protects individuals with disabilities from being excluded from, denied the benefits of, or being subjected to discrimination by entities that receive federal funds.

42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq. Federal Fair Housing Act
Prohibits housing discrimination based on disability, including mortgage lending and other types of real estate loans.

Federal regulations

24 CFR Parts 100 et seq. Federal Fair Housing Act

24 CFR §§ 5.300 et seq. Pet ownership for the elderly or persons with disabilities

Selected cases

Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller, P.L.L.C., 596 US __ (2022)
Supreme Court held that emotional distress damages are not recoverable for victims of discrimination.

Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999)
Right to live integrated within communities. "Under Title II, the court concluded, unnecessary institutional segregation constitutes discrimination per se, which cannot be justified by a lack of funding."

Schmidt v. Boston Housing Authority, 505 F.Supp. 988 (1981)
Discriminatory intent does not need to be proven in cases of violations of the Fair Housing Act. See also: Macone v. Town of Wakefield, 277 F.3d 1 (2002) "To prove a violation of the Fair Housing Act, appellants can show either discriminatory intent or disparate impact."

Agencies and filing complaints

Enforcement agencies

Agency File a complaint
Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
One Ashburton Place, Suite 601
Boston, MA 02108
Main: (617) 994-6000
TTY: (617) 994-6196
How to file a complaint of discrimination
MCAD is the state agency that is responsible for enforcing and investigating violations of MGL 151B, including discrimination in housing and other complaints over which they have jurisdiction.
Massachusetts Attorney General's Civil Rights Division
Main: (617) 963-2917 (Mass relay dial 7-1-1 and connect via main number)
File a civil rights complaint
"[R]esponds to complaints related to civil rights and civil liberties. The office takes enforcement action when necessary and can mediate disputes." Contact the Division for landlord/tenant disputes and consumer protection.
Boston Regional Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. Federal Building
10 Causeway Street, Room 308
Boston, Massachusetts 02222
(617) 994-8300
(800) 827-5005
TTY (800) 877-8339
File a FHEO complaint
Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is the federal agency that is responsible for enforcing and investigating violations of the Fair Housing Act.


Technical information and guidance

Massachusetts Office on Disability
One Ashburton Place, Room 1305
Boston, MA 02108
Main: (617) 727-7440
MOD provides information and technical guidance on housing rights.

Agency decisions

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination hearing decisions

Collections include hearing decisions on discrimination complaints brought before MCAD.

Web sources

Accessibility requirements for buildings, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

Credit discrimination, Federal Trade Commission.
Protections when you deal with any organizations or people who regularly extend credit.

Elevator outages in housing, Massachusetts Office on Disability.

A handbook on the legal obligations and rights of public and assisted housing providers under federal and state fair housing law for applicants and tenants with disabilities, Mass. Housing, July 2015.
Explains fair housing / discrimination law to landlords, including: how to market your apartment legally, communication with prospective tenants, dealing with families and children, explanation of disabilities and the rights of the disabled, and more.

Housing discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Reasonable accommodations, Mass. Legal Help (Dec. 2009).
"By law, public housing authorities and owners of multifamily housing are required to make reasonable accommodations that give people with physical or mental disabilities access to housing or help them to remain in housing." Includes a sample reasonable accommodation request form.

Print sources

Beginner's guide to the Fair Housing Act by Amy M. Glassman, American Bar Association, Forum on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law, 2016.

Bringing and defending a fair housing case, MCLE, 2012.

Credit discrimination by Jeremiah Battle, Jr, NCLC, 2022.

Elder and disability law in Massachusetts, MCLE, 2023.

Group homes by Brian J. Connolly, American Bar Association, Section of State and Local Government Law, 2014.

Landlord and tenant law, 3rd ed. (Mass. practice vols. 33 & 33A) Thomson Reuters, 2022.

  • § 22:16 Local housing authorities—Housing for elderly and handicapped persons.

Legal rights of individuals with disabilities, 3rd ed., MCLE New England, 2021.

Massachusetts discrimination law reporter: MDLR, Massachusetts Labor Relations Reporter.

Reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities in condos, housing & places of public accommodation [Sound recording], MCLE, 2017.

Reasonable accommodations in housing demystified, MCLE, 2018.

Residential and commercial landlord-tenant practice in Massachusetts: Chapter 4: Discrimination in housing: § 4.4.3 Disability, 4th ed., MCLE, 2022.

Contact for Massachusetts law about disability rights in housing

Last updated: October 31, 2023

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