- Section 5: Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications
- 5A: Examples of Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications
- 5B: Policies and Procedures
- 5C: Responding to Requests for Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications
- 5D: Determining the Need for Reasonable Accommodations or Modifications
- 5E: Gathering Information
- 5F: Determining if a Request for an Accommodation or Modification is Reasonable
- 5G: Determining Whether a Request for an Accommodation Imposes an Undue Burden
Section 5: Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications
5A: Examples of Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications
Reasonable accommodations are a change, exception, adaptation, or adjustment to a housing provider’s rule, policy, regulation, practice, program, or service that will help the person with a disability have an equal opportunity to access and use the unit and common areas.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations:
- Providing a reserved accessible parking space near a resident’s unit for someone with a mobility or respiratory disability.
- Providing documents in alternate formats such as large print or in electronic form for a person with a vision disability.
- Allowing a resident with a disability to have an assistance animal in a “no-pets” building.
- Waiving guest fees or guest rules for a live-in aide for a resident with a disability.
Reasonable modifications are a structural change to the unit or common area so that the person can access and use the premises.
Examples of Reasonable Modifications:
- Installing grab bars in the bathroom.
- Changing doorknobs to levers for easier access.
- Installing a ramp to the front door of the building.
- Installing a doorbell with a light instead of sound.
- Widening the doorways in a unit for easier access.
A request for a reasonable accommodation or modification may occur any time during the application process, the signing of a lease, the tenancy, or even during the eviction or nonrenewal process. Moreover, the request can be made by a family member or person acting on behalf of the person with a disability.
IMPORTANT - Housing Providers Must:
- Engage in an interactive process with residents who request an accommodation or modification;
- Respond in an adequate and prompt manner;
- Determine if there is a need for the request; and
- Determine if the request is reasonable.
5B: Policies and Procedures
Residents may request an accommodation or modification orally, in writing, or on a form. There is no particular form a resident must use to request an accommodation or modification. Further, no special language is required (i.e. the request does not need to mention specific laws or use the phrase “reasonable accommodation” or “reasonable modification”).
Housing providers are not required to set policies or formal procedures covering reasonable accommodations or modifications. However, they can be helpful. Reasonable accommodation and modification policies provide a roadmap to the resident regarding the housing provider’s process for considering and handling a request and help ensure the housing provider handles the request appropriately.
If a policy or procedure does exist, a housing provider cannot refuse a request for an accommodation or modification because a resident failed to follow the established policy or formal procedures in making a request. Housing providers should consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable about disability law when adopting these types of policies.
5C: Responding to Requests for Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications
Once a request for an accommodation or modification has been made, the housing provider has an obligation to respond to the request regardless of when the request was made or how it was communicated.
- Timeliness: Housing providers must respond in a timely manner. Any undue delay may be deemed a denial of the request.
- Estimate Timeline: Housing providers must give an anticipated response date or timeline. If housing providers are not able to respond within a timely manner, they should let the person know when to expect a response. Otherwise, the lack of response could be deemed a denial.
- Confidentiality: Housing providers must respect an individual’s privacy. All information provided to the housing provider related to the individual’s disability should be kept confidential.
Although not required by law, housing providers should respond in writing and retain copies of all documentation regarding the request.
5D: Determining the Need for Reasonable Accommodations or Modifications
The housing provider must also determine if there is a need for the accommodation or modification because of the resident’s disability.
If the accommodation or modification enables equal access and use of the dwelling, then it is needed.
Examples: Determining the Need for an Accommodation
- Hae Jung’s landlord requires tenants to pay rent in person at the rental office that is three blocks away from the apartment building. Hae Jung has a psychiatric disability that makes her afraid to leave her unit. She requests permission to mail her rent payment. Hae Jung’s disability creates a need for her to mail her rent check and, therefore, the accommodation request should be granted.
- Kwane has epilepsy. Kwane works late and asks permission from the condominium association to use the pool after hours. There is no distinguishable disability-related need for Kwane to use the pool after hours and, therefore, the accommodation request can be denied.
A housing provider is not obligated to provide the exact accommodation or modification requested if an alternative accommodation or modification will be equally effective in addressing the resident’s needs.
However, the housing provider should give deference to the original accommodation or modification requested because the person with a disability is in the best position to know what is needed.
5E: Gathering Information
Housing providers are entitled to information necessary to evaluate whether a request for a reasonable accommodation or modification is needed. The inquiries a housing provider can make depend upon whether the resident’s disability and the need for the accommodation or modification are apparent.
If the disability is apparent or otherwise known, the housing provider may not ask for additional information. The housing provider may only request information necessary to evaluate the need, if the need is not known or apparent.
If the disability is not apparent or known, the housing provider may request information to verify the disability, such as a letter from a medical professional, social service provider, the Social Security Administration, or other reliable third-party.
Examples: Requests for Information
- Leah uses a walker. She asks her housing provider to assign her a parking space near the entrance to the building. Because Leah’s disability and need for the requested accommodation are both obvious, the housing provider may not ask for additional information.
- Jose uses a wheelchair. He asks his housing provider if he can keep an emotional support dog in his unit even though the provider has a “no- pets” policy. Jose’s physical disability is apparent but the need for an emotional support animal is not. The housing provider may ask Jose to provide information about the need for the dog.
The housing provider may not ask a resident to disclose a specific diagnosis or provide his or her entire medical history.
5F: Determining if a Request for an Accommodation or Modification is Reasonable
If the request for an accommodation or modification is necessary, the housing provider then evaluates whether the request is reasonable.
A request for an accommodation is not reasonable if it:
imposes an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider; or fundamentally alters the basic operation or nature of a housing provider’s services or programs by significantly modifying, eliminating, or adding to the services it provides.
A request for a modification is not reasonable if:
the resident fails or refuses to provide the proper assurances the housing provider has requested regarding the workmanship, permits, and restoration of the property, as more fully explained in Section 6-Associated Costs and Section 7-Complex Issues.
5G: Determining Whether a Request for an Accommodation Imposes an Undue Burden
To determine whether a request for an accommodation imposes an undue burden, a housing provider should consider:
- the administrative and financial costs of the request,
- the costs of the housing provider’s regular operations,
- the overall financial resources available to the housing provider,
- the benefit the request would have on the requestor, and
- whether there are any alternatives which could be granted.
Example of a Fundamental Alteration:
Asking a landlord to pick up groceries for a tenant with a disability would be a fundamental alteration of the landlord’s business of providing rental housing. This request is unreasonable.