#TenantTipTuesday: Reasonable Accommodation

Under the Fair Housing Act, people with disabilities have the right to make specific kinds of requests that make living life easier. These are called “reasonable accommodation” or “modification” requests. Often, people with disabilities have a very difficult time finding housing that meets all their unique needs. The right to request reasonable accommodations allows people with disabilities to identify specific housing needs and ask landlords to provide and meet those needs.

 

What is reasonable accommodation and modification?

People with disabilities have the right to request exceptions to their landlord’s rules, policies, and practices. You must establish that you have a disability that substantially limits a major life function, and that the accommodation or requested exception is necessary because of your disability. The request must be necessary to access housing, maintain housing, or have full use and enjoyment of your current housing. For example, a woman with a visual impairment might require a guide dog to get through daily activities. She would not be subject to a building’s “no pets” policy.

 

Reasonable modification is similar, but is usually structural in nature. For example, a man with a wheelchair could ask for a ramp to be set up so he can enter a common entrance. However, if the walkway just provides access to the individual’s residence, then the landlord can require the tenant to install and pay for the ramp. Under different laws, landlords who receive government subsidies for their housing units are required to make and pay for the necessary modifications.

 

Verification

 

Your landlord might ask you for certification from a doctor or other qualified professional who can verify your disability and also explain how the modification or change is necessary. If possible, have your verification available when you are making the request.

This good boy is a service dog. He’s there for his human and is part of their reasonable accommodation.

Making the Request

You can make your request digitally or in writing, but consider making it in writing so you can keep a paper trail for your records. Try something like this:

 

This is a request for a reasonable accommodation. I have a disability that substantially limits my major life functions of ______________. Because of my limited ability to __________, I need ________. Therefore, please make an exception to your _______ policy. I need this accommodation in order to live in the house/apt. Please respond to my request by ______ (generally 10 – 14 days from the date you send notice). If I do not hear back by said date, I will assume that you denied my request.

 

What if I get denied?

 

Technically your landlord can deny your request for the following three reasons:

 

  1. The change or exception would create an undue financial burden.
  2. The change or exception would create an undue administrative burden.
  3. The change or exception would fundamentally alter the nature of the landlord’s business.

 

The landlord cannot deny your request because it creates some financial expense or requires them to do some extra paperwork. The key word here is undue.

 

If your request meets the above criteria and your landlord denies or ignores your request, you can file a complaint with the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development or the Oregon State Bureau of Labor and Industry, or you may file a lawsuit.

 

Learn more by calling our Renters’ Rights Hotline at 503.288.0130 or reaching out to the Fair Housing Council of Oregon at 503.223.8197.