Being able to find the perfect resident for your rental home is one of the biggest challenges that are faced by property owners everywhere. These prospective renters come in all shapes and sizes with some of them bearing personal challenges of their own. These personal challenges of a resident can sometimes overlap with your responsibilities and duties as a landlord, and herein proves the importance of knowing the coverage of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). It is a must that every landlord and residents alike know what is covered by the Act so that everybody knows what their rights are, and how to act in certain situations.
The Fair Housing Act’s reasonable accommodation requirements are designed to protect both you and your residents against disability discrimination. The reasoning for this policy is the fact that because some of the existing rules or policies could potentially impact persons with disabilities so much more different than those without, then to treat all residents, in the same manner, could more or less deny disabled persons vital use-aspects of a rental home. It is for this reason too that the FHA lets residents request “reasonable accommodations” at any point in the leasing process or occupation of the property.
So, what exactly is a “reasonable” accommodation?
According to the FHA, a “reasonable” accommodation is any modification in “rules, policies, practices, or services” necessary for an individual with a disability to have equal opportunity to perform routine major life activities (for example walking, eating, sleeping) at home. This might mean that a resident with a hearing impairment wants smoke detectors with flashing lights installed in the home. Other examples of reasonable accommodations may include:
- Large print rental documents for the visually impaired
- Helping someone with mental impairments fill out paperwork
- Assigning a lower mailbox for a person in a wheelchair
- Permitting an assistance animal (including emotional support animals) in an otherwise “no pets allowed” residence
- Installing safety bars in showers or bathtubs
What constitutes for these “reasonable” modifications are the fact that they are directly related to the person’s disability and are of considerably within the capacity of the property owner to permit. The general practice is that those residents that are making the requests are also the ones who will be responsible for the installation and removal of any such physical alterations.
Although using the term request sounds as if everything has to be done, this does not automatically suggest that property owners have to accommodate every single request. For example, if a resident with a phobia of dogs may suddenly ask that a neighbor’s dog is taken away from the property next door, this is without a doubt unreasonable and may be safely denied. Any alterations that are being requested of by the resident has to be-be both necessary and considerate to the property owner’s financial and administrative ability to complete. If an initial request is found to be unreasonable, the landlord should work with the resident to offer an alternative solution that may still address the disabled person’s needs. The concept of “reasonable accommodation” is broad and quite flexible, which means there will often be more than one effective solution.
The last thing that a property owner needs is to worry about FHA compliance. At Real Property Management VA Peninsula, we have the expertise to guarantee you and your property will be up to the challenge of responding appropriately to accommodation requests. Want to learn more? Please contact us online or call us directly at 757-251-9188.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.