What are Reasonable Accommodations?
An Essential Property Management Term
Reasonable accommodations are “a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service,” according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to refuse to make reasonable accommodations when such accommodations “may be necessary to afford persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling and public and common use areas.”
Additionally, the Fair Housing Act forbids housing providers from refusing to permit “reasonable modifications of existing premises occupied or to be occupied by such person if such modifications may be necessary to afford [a disabled person’s] full enjoyment of the premises.”
The purpose of reasonable accommodations is to allow disabled people “to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces” by eliminating barriers that would otherwise prevent them from fully participating in housing opportunities, regardless if such housing is privately owned or part of a federally-assisted program, HUD explains.
Reasonable accommodations must be reasonable and shouldn’t present an undue burden on the property owner, according to Colorado Realty & Property Management, Inc. Additionally, landlords can request third-party verification, such as a doctor’s note, to validate the tenant’s request since there “must be an identifiable relationship between the requested accommodation and the individual’s disability,” says the U.S. Department of Justice.
What’s the Difference Between a Reasonable Accommodation and a Reasonable Modification?
Though Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t distinguish between reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications, the terms are slightly different.
While a reasonable accommodation is a change or exception to a rule, policy, practice, or service, a reasonable modification is a structural change made to an existing premise “in order to afford [someone with a disability] full enjoyment of the premises.”
The costs associated with a reasonable modification are paid by the tenant or someone acting on the tenant’s behalf, whereas reasonable accommodations are generally paid by the landlord.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, examples of reasonable accommodation requests include:
- A resident with a mobility impairment requesting an assigned accessible parking space close to the entrance of her unit.
- A tenant with a mental disability that makes him afraid to leave her unit asking for permission to have a friend mail his rent payment to the rental office.
- A deaf renter requesting that a housing unit with a “no pets” policy allow him to keep an assistance animal like a dog in his unit to alert him to sounds, including the fire alarm, the telephone ringing, and knocks at the door.
- A tenant with PTSD submitting paperwork to his landlord that would allow him to get an emotional support animal (ESA).
Can a Landlord Deny a Request for a Reasonable Accommodation Without Violating the Fair Housing Act?
Yes. As the U.S. Department of Justice explains, “a housing provider can deny a request for a reasonable accommodation if the request was not made by or on behalf of a person with a disability or if there is no disability-related need for the accommodation. In addition, a request for a reasonable accommodation may be denied if providing the accommodation is not reasonable – i.e., if it would impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider or it would fundamentally alter the nature of the provider’s operations.”
In this case, “fundamentally altering” the provider’s operations means the requested modification would change the essential nature of the provider’s business.
The site goes on to note that the “determination of undue financial and administrative burden must be made on a case-by-case basis involving various factors, such as the cost of the requested accommodation, the financial resources of the provider, the benefits that the accommodation would provide to the requester, and the availability of alternative accommodations that would effectively meet the requester’s disability-related needs.”
If you have to refuse a requested accommodation because it isn’t reasonable, you should meet with your tenant and discuss whether there’s an alternative accommodation that would effectively meet their disability-related needs without imposing undue financial or administrative hardship. If such an alternative exists, you must grant that request.
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