Pennsylvania’s fair housing laws, codified in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), vary slightly from federal law. Pennsylvania’s protection of disabled persons also prohibits discrimination against a non-disabled person due to his or her relationship or association with a disabled individual. (This type of protection is common, but not always as clearly stated). More significantly, Pennsylvania extends the usual residential protections of fair housing law to the purchase or rental of commercial property as well. Beyond these expansions in the scope of protection, the state and federal law have few differences.
Who do I contact if my accessible parking rights are infringed in Pennsylvania?
If your landlord or employer isn’t providing enough accessible parking, we encourage you to use the form letters on our Resources page to request that they add more. This is usually the first step in straightening out any accessible parking problem.
Complaints in Pennsylvania are handled by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) and must be filed within 180 days of the discriminatory incident. If you have missed this deadline, it is possible to get an extension by showing good cause for the delay. Also, you may still be within the one-year limit to file a federal claim with HUD instead. Complaints are initiated by filing a form that can be downloaded here, but is not submittable online. Completed forms must be sent to the appropriate regional office for the county where the discrimination occurred: the Philadelphia Regional Office for counties in southeast Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Office for the western portion of the state, and the Harrisburg office for the remainder of the state (see here for map and contact information). Staff members at these locations are also available to help you prepare your complaint before you submit it.
Once you submit your complaint, it will be co-filed with HUD, if applicable, and a copy will be served on the other party, who has 60 days to respond from that point. During this time you will be signed an investigator to look into your case. While the investigation is ongoing, both parties are brought together for a fact-finding conference in which evidence and documents can be presented. This conference is voluntary, but it may help speed up your complaint or bring about a settlement.
If the investigation establishes probable cause that discrimination occurred, another effort will be made to obtain a voluntary settlement between the two parties. If this does not occur, there will be a public hearing at which you may be asked to testify under oath. PHRC will provide a commission attorney to represent you, unless you prefer a private attorney. This hearing will conclude with a legally binding decision. If your claim is rejected or the hearing concludes unfavorably, you will be informed by the Commission regarding your rights to appeal in court.
There are many legal aid and fair housing organizations throughout Pennsylvania that may be able to offer you advice or legal counsel if you need it. The Fair Housing Rights Center provides a variety of legal and educational resources for Southeastern Pennsylvania, as does the Housing Equality Center of Pennsylvania. The PA Fair Housing Council operates in the capital area, and there is an organization called Pittsburgh Fair Housing for that region. You can find a map of local legal aid services via Pennsylvania Legal Aid, and a more complete list of fair housing groups at this site.
The information contained in these pages is for informational purposes only, and it’s no substitute for legal counsel.