Persons with disabilities are protected by the Fair Housing Act. A disability is defined as any impairment that significantly limits a major life activity such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. In addition to physical disabilities, protection extends to those with mental and emotional disabilities as well.
In order for a person with a disability to fully use and enjoy their home, they may require changes to an apartment or house. Depending on the situation, a housing provider may be required to allow or provide for such changes.
Housing providers are required to allow accommodations and modifications, as long as they are reasonable and are being requested by a qualified individual. Each request should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. A change in a rule, policy, practice, or service is a reasonable accommodation.
Examples include: allowing an assistance animal when pets are not allowed, creating reserved parking space for a tenant with a disability, or requesting a ground floor residence due to limited mobility. Any minimal costs associated with reasonable accommodation are generally absorbed by the landlord. A structural change, or an alteration of the premises, is a reasonable modification. Examples include the installation of grab bars, ramps, or lowered countertops. Costs for reasonable modifications are generally paid by the tenant, but housing providers receiving federal funding are required to absorb the cost.
Any request for a reasonable accommodation or modification should be made by or on behalf of a person with a disability. This can be done at any time, either during the application process or while being a tenant.
A request can be made orally or in writing, but it is recommended that you put your request in writing to avoid misunderstandings. Your landlord may have a policy in place to address such requests.
A housing provider may request the following information related to your disability:
- Verification of the qualified disability
- Description of the needed accommodation/modification
- Relationship between the disability and the need for the accommodation/modification
This information should only be requested if either the disability or the need for the accommodation/modification is not known or obvious.
Verification of the disability or need for accommodation/modification can be provided by a medical or social service professional, family member, or other reliable third parties.
Housing providers generally cannot ask you to provide detailed medical records or inquire about the nature or severity of your disability.
A housing provider may deny a request if they can demonstrate:
- There is no disability-related need for the accommodation/modification
- Providing the requested accommodation/modification would cause an undue financial or administrative burden or a fundamental alteration of the provider’s operations
If a housing provider refuses your request because it is not reasonable, they should discuss alternative options with you in order to find a solution that effectively addresses your disability-related need. This is known as the interactive process. If you are unable to reach an agreement, or if you experience an undue delay in response to your request, please contact us for assistance.
- “People who use wheelchairs damage apartments. You have to leave a double security deposit.”
- “You can only live here if there is someone to take care of you.”
- “I cannot rent to you. I am afraid of future liability if you get sick.”
- “I don’t want someone with a disability living in my building.”
- “Sorry, there are no apartments available.” (If an apartment is available.)
- “I do not allow people to live in my apartments with 24-hour personal
- “How severe is your disability?”
- “May I have permission to see your medical records?”
- “Have you ever been hospitalized because of a mental disability?
- “Have you ever been in a drug rehabilitation program?”
- “Do you take medications?”
- “Why do you receive SSI?”
- Requiring people with mobility impairments to live in ground-floor units.
- Segregating people with disabilities in a particular building or portion of an apartment complex.
- Refusing to respond to maintenance calls, or responding more slowly, because of a tenant’s disability.
- Banning people with disabilities from pools, clubhouses, or other common areas.
- Charging extra fees for maintenance calls made by people with disabilities.
- Refusing to renew the lease of a person with a disability, when the leases of people without disabilities are routinely renewed.
- Threatening or intimidating remarks or conduct by management or by other tenants directed at a person with a disability.
- Installing an automatic water faucet shut-off for people who can’t remember to turn off the water.
- Installing a ramp to make a primary entrance accessible for people with a mobility disability.
- Installing pictures, color-coded signs, or pathways for people whose cognitive disabilities make written signs impossible to use.
- Installing carpeting or acoustic tiles to reduce the noise made by a person whose disability causes him or her to make a lot of noise.
- Disconnecting a stove and installing a microwave for a person unable to operate a stove safely.
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