Landlords in Hot Water Over Reasonable Accommodation Rules

by | Nov 19, 2018 | Rental Property Management Tips

A slew of prosecutions against landlords last month highlights the need to review policies regarding reasonable accommodation of tenants with disabilities.

In the most recent case, the owners and managers of an apartment complex in Las Vegas have agreed to pay $6,000 to settle a claim that they violated the law when they denied their tenants’ request to move to a first-floor unit to accommodate their disabilities.

The married couple claim they were promised a first-floor unit as soon as one became available. Instead, the couple say they were passed over as others rented the units. Later, when a unit became available, the couple were told they would have to pay an additional $1,000 in fees to secure it. Because the couple could not afford the fees, they were forced to move from the complex.

In addition to the $6,000 payment, the owner and manager have agreed to forgive $1,392 in unpaid rent, amend their property management policies to include information about reasonable accommodations, and require leasing and management staff to attend training.

Landlords need to understand that they have an obligation to provide accommodations so that people with mobility impairments can fully enjoy their homes. Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity commented that the settlement will make more landlords aware of their responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act.

In another case, a New Jersey condo association was charged with discrimination after requiring a tenant with an assistance animal to use the service entry rather than the main entrance or common areas when she had her animal with her. The association allegedly refused to waive its policy that residents transport pets in carriers when in common areas.

Additionally, the association levied a $100 fine against the tenant’s daughter when she assisted her mobility-impaired mother by walking the assistance animal in the common areas of the apartment complex, contrary to pet policies. The Fair Housing Act also covers those who live or are associated with tenants with disabilities.

The association faces monetary losses and staff may be ordered to undergo training.

The owner and managers of a Virginia-based low-income housing development in North Carolina are facing similar charges. In this case, the tenant claims that her request to install an automatic door opener to accommodate her wheelchair was unnecessarily delayed. The tenant was evicted after a manager refused to allow her extra time to complete the development’s annual income and family composition certification. As a result, the resident has been without housing.

Landlords in Ohio recently were charged with discrimination for refusing to provide a designated parking space to a tenant with a disability. According to the complaint, the owners of the complex refused to grant the accommodation despite the tenant providing medical documentation attesting to her need for it. As a result, the woman and her children were forced to move to a different complex.

When a tenant needs a designated parking space as an accommodation for a disability and providing one will not be an undue burden or fundamental alteration, a landlord must do so, according to Paul Compton, HUD’s General Counsel. “We want housing providers to know what their legal responsibilities are and to follow them. If they don’t, we will bring charges like this one,” he warns.

Earlier last month, HUD announced it had reached a settlement with landlords in Los Angeles after a tenant with an emotional support animal was threatened with eviction for violating the no-pets policy. The tenant alleges that the property manager told her she could not keep her emotional support dog despite providing medical documentation supporting the request. After receiving the eviction threat, the tenant moved out.

Although the owner and manager deny liability, they have agreed to pay $8,500 and provide training to managers and staff.

The Fair Housing Act covers most landlords and applies to discrimination based on disability. It is a violation of the Act to refuse to make a reasonable accommodation in rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodation may be necessary to afford all tenants equal opportunity to use and enjoy the rental unit and common areas.

A request for accommodation can be denied only if it does not relate to the disability, if it would impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the landlord, or it would fundamentally alter the nature of the landlord’s operations. The determination of undue financial and administrative burden must be made on a case-by-case basis using factors such as the cost of the accommodation, the financial resources of the landlord, the benefits to the tenant, and the availability of alternative accommodations that meet the tenant’s needs.

Before taking adverse action against an applicant or tenant with a disability, discuss the situation with an attorney to avoid this unnecessary income loss.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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