Fair Housing Act Tip: Reasonable Accommodation Definitions and Examples

What the law Requires.

The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to provide reasonable accommodations for  Tenants who have disabilities.  That appears to be common knowledge.

In my dealings in the world of real estate, I find there is confusion about the definition of a Reasonable Accommodation, and also confusion about how to make them when requested.

Definition and Examples.

Here are a definition and some helpful examples from the Joint Statement on Reasonable Accommodations under the Fair Housing Act from HUD and the U.S. Department of Justice  https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/huddojstatement.pdf :

What is a “reasonable accommodation” for purposes of the Act?

A “reasonable accommodation” is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces. Since rules, policies, practices, and services may have a different effect on persons with disabilities than on other persons, treating persons with disabilities exactly the same as others will sometimes deny them an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. [emphasis mine] The Act makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.

To show that a requested accommodation may be necessary, there must be an identifiable relationship … between the requested accommodation and the individual’s disability.

Example 1: A housing provider has a policy of providing unassigned parking spaces to residents. A resident with a mobility impairment, who is substantially limited in her ability to walk, requests an assigned accessible parking space close to the entrance to her unit as a reasonable accommodation. There are available parking spaces near the entrance to her unit that are accessible, but those spaces are available to all residents on a first come, first served basis. The provider must make an exception to its policy of not providing assigned parking spaces to accommodate this resident.

Example 2: A housing provider has a policy of requiring tenants to come to the rental office in person to pay their rent. A tenant has a mental disability that makes her afraid to leave her unit. Because of her disability, she requests that she be permitted to have a friend mail her rent payment to the rental office as a reasonable accommodation. The provider must make an exception to its payment policy to accommodate this tenant.

Example 3: A housing provider has a “no pets” policy. A tenant who is deaf requests that the provider allow him to keep a dog in his unit as a reasonable accommodation. The tenant explains that the dog is an assistance animal that will alert him to several sounds, including knocks at the door, sounding of the smoke detector, the telephone ringing, and cars coming into the driveway. The housing provider must make an exception to its “no pets” policy to accommodate this tenant.

The Do’s for Landlords:

DO reduce your legal risk by taking the time to get training on the definition and application of reasonable accommodations under the Fair Housing Act.

DO make sure everyone on your team who deals with the public gets the training, as well.

Michael Oswald



Please note: the above post contains educational information. It is not intended as legal advice. Engage an attorney who is licensed in your state to get advice on dealing with any specific legal issue.

© 2019 Michael S. Oswald

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