Over the past several decades various groups have tried to limit and prohibit the use of sober livings in so called good neighborhoods. These attempts at stopping sober livings have been have not been supported by the courts.
The paramount decision protecting the rights of people in recovery was made by the United States Supreme Court in May 1995 in the case City of Edmonds, WA v. Oxford House, Inc. et. al. 514 U.S. 725 (1995). In that case, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that recovering alcoholics and drug addicts were a protected class under the handicapped provisions of the Federal Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988.
A few days after September 11, 2001 Oxford House officials and their attorneys had to drive to Waterbury, Connecticut for a trial to determine if seven men could continue to live in an Oxford House in West Haven, Connecticut without the instillation of a sprinkler system. The case involved Oxford House, the City of West Haven and the State of Connecticut and the issue was whether or not the particular house had to install a fire safety sprinkler system even though there was no requirement placed on families living in similar houses. Senior Federal Judge Gerard L. Goettel, in his decision, explains in detail the different types of discrimination under the Federal Fair Housing Act and such basic requirements on government and others to make reasonable accommodation. The Tsombanidis Case, 180 F. Supp. 2d 262 (2001) was substantially affirmed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Tsombanidis Case 2d Cir.
The Fair Housing Act extends protection from discrimination beyond state actors. For example, courts have sustained the position that insurance companies cannot charge landlords more for comprehensive insurance when the landlord is renting property to handicapped individuals. In Wai v. Allstate Insurance Co, 75 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C. 1999), two landlords who rented their homes to people with disabilities were denied standard landlord insurance and were directed to purchase costlier commercial insurance policies. The Court held that although insurance policies are not explicitly mentioned in the text of the FFHA, denial of homeowners’ insurance on the basis of disability violates §3604(f)(1), which declares it unlawful to “discriminate in the sale, or rental, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any buyer or renter because of handicap.” The court held that denial of insurance coverage would make a dwelling unavailable to the persons with disability and the insurer had to make a reasonable accommodation. Oxford House was a party to the suit. The Wai Case settled the fact that recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are subject to the nondiscrimination provisions of both FFHA and ADA whether such discrimination is from the state or private entities. John Stanton, one of the Washington, DC attorneys handling that case, has written a law review article covering the entire matter of discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, as amended, and the rights of disabled individuals. His Hofstra Law Review Article can be downloaded.