Your landlord may have a duty to grant your requests for reasonable accommodations for handicap access. Not all landlords are subject to the Federal Fair Housing Act or comparable state regulations. It depends on how many tenants rent in the same building, and how many units there are. If your landlord is subject to the Act, then you can expect or request the following:
Reasonable Accommodations Test
Reasonable accommodations don’t have to be physical. It can be a change in a policy, a service or practice that gives you an equal opportunity to enjoy your apartment, the public and common areas as a disabled tenant. Landlords have a right to apply a reasonable accommodations test you make a request. The two requirements are:
- You are in fact disabled, although the landlord cannot inquire too much about the details of the disability
- You need the accommodations to use and enjoy the apartment and the common and public areas
An example of use includes the ability to access the apartment or common area, such as with a wheelchair. An example of enjoyment can be as basic as the ability to move around in a room without hassle or risk of injury. Landlords don’t have to comply if enforcing the Act causes undue financial hardship, or if the accommodations would make a substantial change to the overall purpose of the apartment building. The accommodations cannot pose a threat to other tenants, and it should be architecturally possible in order for the landlord to be legally obligated.
Reasonable Accommodations for Apartments
Property owners have made reasonable accommodations for handicap access when constructing the building prior to any request from a tenant. Some landlords have made accommodations after receiving requests from tenants. Here are some reasonable accommodations that landlords have made for their disabled tenants:
- Allow service dogs despite a “no pets” allowed policy
- Designate parking spaces for disabled tenants, close to the apartment or access route
- Permit in-care provider to move in even though the lease limits the number of adults who are allowed to live in the apartment
- Removal of carpets due to allergies, as long as there’s a medical history or doctor’s letter to prove it
- Release from a lease if there are not accessible units for the disabled tenant to rent
- Installation of ramps to access a public area or the tenant’s apartment
You should make any requests for reasonable accommodations for apartments in writing. It’s important to provide an explanation of your disability and supporting documents if your disability is hidden.
The goal of the Federal Fair Housing Act is to prevent discrimination against tenants who are disabled. Legislators who passed the Act believed that by requiring reasonable accommodations for handicap access, disabled tenants could enjoy and freely use their apartment and common areas like any other tenant.