Fair Housing Q&A

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Q: Can a tenant’s request for a reasonable accommodation be denied?
A:Tenants with disabilities have the right to make changes or adjustments, known as reasonable accommodations, to a landlord’s policies, practices or rules as long as those changes are necessary, reasonable and would allow a disabled tenant the ability to fully use and enjoy his or her housing. However, a tenant’s reasonable accommodation request can be denied if: (a) the tenant does not have a disability (b) there is no disability-related need for the accommodation, or (c) the accommodation imposes an undue financial or administrative burden on the landlord or fundamentally alters the nature of the landlord’s business. If the landlord denies an accommodation request because it’s not reasonable (i.e. it poses an undue financial burden), he or she must discuss with the tenant whether there is a possible alternative accommodation that would still equally meet the tenant’s disability-related needs, and be reasonable for the landlord.
Q: Can a landlord require that a tenant’s accommodation request be put in writing?
A:No. Reasonable accommodation requests can be made orally or in writing. Although it’s a good idea for both the tenant and landlord to put the request in writing to avoid any misunderstandings, if a tenant refuses to put the request in writing, a landlord must treat the request as if it was submitted in writing. Landlords should be careful in responding to requests in a timely manner because unnecessary and undue delays could be construed as a failure to provide an accommodation, which can be illegal. Furthermore, the request doesn’t have to be made by the disabled tenant directly, and can be made by a family member or someone else acting on the tenant’s behalf, such as a caregiver or a nonprofit agency. The requestor must explain to the landlord what type of accommodation is being requested, and if the need for the accommodation is not obvious, must explain the relationship between the disability and the requested accommodation.
Q: What kinds of information can a landlord request from a tenant if a tenant has an obvious or known disability and is requesting a reasonable accommodation?
A:Landlords are entitled to obtain necessary information to determine if the requested accommodation relates to the tenant’s disability. This can include requesting a doctor’s letter explaining the need for the accommodation as it relates to a tenant’s disability. However, if the person’s disability is obvious and if the need for the accommodation is also readily apparent, landlords may not request any additional information about the disability. For example, if a tenant uses a walker or wheelchair due to his or her physical disability, and requests an assigned parking space near the entrance of the building, rather than a space in a different location, this would be considered an obvious or readily apparent accommodation based on a disability and no further verification should be requested.