Do Property Managers & Owners Need to Provide Reasonable Accommodations to Disabled Tenants?

A landlord of a 4-unit complex has a policy of not providing assigned parking spaces. A tenant with a mobility impairment, who has difficulty walking, requests a reasonable accommodation in being given an assigned accessible parking space in front of the entrance to his unit. Is the landlord required to make this accommodation for his tenant?

The answer is yes. Don’t get caught violating Federal Fair Housing laws or you could be facing thousands of dollars in fines and costs defending against a HUD complaint. What is a reasonable accommodation and what is required of a landlord? A reasonable accommodation is a change, adaptation or modification to a policy, program, service, or workplace which will allow a qualified person with a disability to participate fully in a program, take advantage of a service, or perform a job. Reasonable accommodations may include, for example, those which are necessary in order for the person with a disability to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces. Since persons with disabilities may have special needs due to their disabilities, in some cases, simply treating them exactly the same as others may not ensure that they have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. 

What qualifies as a reasonable accommodation? In order to show that a requested accommodation may be necessary, there must be an identifiable relationship, or nexus, between the requested accommodation and the individual’s disability. What is reasonable must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Let’s look at one more example to clarify what a landlord’s duties are: As a result of a disability, a tenant is unable to open the dumpster provided by his housing provider for his trash. The tenant requests that the housing provider send a maintenance staff person to collect his trash from his apartment daily. Because the building is a small, low-budget operation and the maintenance staff are not on site daily, it is an undue financial and administrative burden for the housing provider to provide daily trash service to the tenant and the housing provider may refuse to provide the requested accommodation. However, the housing provider is obligated to provide the tenant with a requested alternative accommodation- providing either an open trash can or placing a trash can which the tenant can open in a accessible location so that the tenant can dispose of his trash.

(Source: www.hud.gov)