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Section 7: Complex Issues

7A: Direct Threat

A housing provider may not need to accommodate a person if he or she constitutes a direct threat to other people or the property of others. Behavior that is bizarre, annoying, or unusual, but not threatening or violent in nature, is generally not sufficient to constitute a direct threat.

Determining whether a person imposes a direct threat cannot be based upon the housing provider’s fear, speculation or stereotypes. It must be based upon an individualized assessment of reliable objective evidence, such as the person’s current conduct or recent history of overt acts, including:

  1. the nature, duration, and severity of the risk of injury;
  2. the probability that injury will actually occur; and
  3. whether there are any reasonable accommodations that will eliminate the direct threat.


In assessing whether a person would be a direct threat, the housing provider must take into consideration whether the person has received intervening treatment or medication that has minimized or eliminated the risk of the direct threat.

Even if a housing provider believes a resident poses a direct threat, a housing provider must determine whether a reasonable accommodation would alleviate the threat prior to taking an action against the resident. If the accommodation would alleviate the direct threat, and not cause an undue burden, the accommodation must be granted.

Example of Direct Threat:

Maria has a psychiatric disability and takes medication that makes her sleepy. Due to the medication, Maria fell asleep while baking, causing a small fire. She woke up in time to call the fire department and the fire was put out. Maria explained to the apartment manager that her medication made her fall asleep. Nevertheless, the apartment manager intends to evict her.

Prior to filing an action to evict, the manager must determine whether an accommodation will alleviate the risk of the direct threat caused by Maria’s disability. For example, Maria could: (1) remove the oven or add a device that turns off the oven after a certain time, (2) hire an aide to cook for her, or (3) replace the medication that makes her sleepy. If no accommodations alleviate the risk, the manager can file to evict.

7B: Denying an Accommodation

IMPORTANT: Invalid Reasons for Denying Accommodations

Housing providers must have valid reasons for denying an accommodation.The following are invalid reasons:

  • The accommodation would violate rules or policies: An accommodation is an exception to the housing provider’s rules. Sheer reluctance to allow an exception to the rules is not a valid reason to deny an accommodation.
  • The resident already received an accommodation: More than one accommodation may be needed if a resident’s needs have increased, the previous accommodation request proves to be insufficient, or if the new accommodation addresses a different need.
  • Allowing the accommodation will open the floodgates: An accommodation cannot be denied because of fear that others will want something similar. If an accommodation is granted to a resident with a disability, a similar arrangement is not required for a person without a disability or need for the accommodation.
  • Impair aesthetics and property values: A housing provider may not deny an accommodation because of speculation that it may affect the aesthetics or property value of the building.
  • Dislike of the resident: A housing provider’s opinion of a resident’s character or behavior, or a bad relationship with the resident, is generally not relevant as to whether the accommodation is needed.
  • Housing provider’s perception of what is best: A housing provider may not deny a person with a disability an accommodation because the housing provider believes the housing is unsafe, the person needs more care, or the person should live in a different environment, such as a nursing home.
  • Requests made during evictions: A person may request an accommodation at any time during the application process and throughout the tenancy, even after the housing provider files for an eviction.


The person with a disability is in the best position to determine where to live and what assistance or accommodations are needed.

Examples of Improper Denials:

  • Sasha has a personal attendant assisting her daily with chores, such as cooking and cleaning. As a reasonable accommodation, Sasha requests that her personal attendant be allowed to use the laundry facility. The accommodation is denied because the housing provider believes the resident should live in a nursing facility. This would be improper.
  • Rita’s landlord filed an eviction action because of clutter in her apartment. The clutter results from Rita’s psychiatric disability. As a reasonable accommodation, she requests that her landlord give her more time to clean. It would be improper for the landlord to continue with the eviction without considering her request for a reasonable accommodation.
  • Donald’s landlord gives him a notice that his lease will not be renewed. Donald’s son lives with him and he uses a wheelchair. Donald looks for a new accessible unit but is unable to find one and overstays his tenancy. His landlord files an eviction action. As a reasonable accommodation, Donald requests additional time to find a new accessible place for him and his son. It would be improper for the landlord to continue with the eviction without considering Donald’s request for a reasonable accommodation.

7C: Communication

If a resident has a disability that impairs his or her ability to communicate with the housing provider, the resident may request that the housing provider alter its standard mode of communication as a reasonable accommodation.

Examples of alternative modes of communication are: providing printed material in an alternative format, such as Braille or large print; arranging for sign language interpretation or captioning; using a telephone or video relay system for an individual who is Deaf or has a speech disability; or communicating by e-mail.

PRO TIP:  Communication tips for housing providers

  • Do not assume a person with a speech disability has difficulty hearing or understanding.
  • Ask the person to identify the preferred method of communication, such as e-mail or online chat.
  • Be patient. A conversation with someone with a communication disability may take longer and the housing provider should not end the communication (e.g. hang up the phone).
  • If necessary, ask the person to repeat or clarify statements. Generally, a person with a communication disability will not be offended.
  • Speak directly to the person with a disability and not to an interpreter assisting the person (e.g. state “I want to talk to you about…” rather than “Tell her [the person with a disability] that…”).

7D: Assistance Animals

The term “assistance animal” refers to any animal that performs tasks or provides emotional support to lessen the effect of a disability.

Assistance animals are not pets and not subject to a housing provider’s “no-pet” policies or pet rules, including pet fees, special security deposits, or related pet costs.

There is no limit to the number of assistance animals a person with a disability can have, provided there is a disability-related need for that number of animals. If a person requests more than one assistance animal, the housing provider must evaluate whether the number of animals requested is needed and reasonable.

While a dog is the most common assistance animal, there is no requirement that the animal be a dog.

Examples of Assistance Animals:

  • Seeing-eye dogs
  • Hearing dogs who alert their owners to sounds
  • Dogs that pull a person in a wheelchair or pick up items for a person with a disability
  • Animals that provide emotional and/or psychological support to individuals with mental disabilities

A housing provider may not apply size and weight limitations to assistance animals. Also, a housing provider may not restrict particular breeds, such as Pitbulls, because of speculation about their behavior. A housing provider may deny the accommodation if a particular animal poses a direct threat based on objective evidence about the animal’s actual conduct.

Before denying an assistance animal based on another resident’s allergy or fear of the assistance animal, the housing provider must show that the assistance animal posed a direct threat of harm to the other resident which could only be addressed by prohibiting the assistance animal. All determinations of direct threat of harm to the other residents must be based on an individualized assessment that relies on objective evidence about the specific animal’s actual conduct, and not on mere speculation or fear about harm or damages an animal may cause.

The resident is responsible for supervising the assistance animal and must always maintain full control of the assistance animal by use of a leash, a carrier, or voice. A housing provider must not require an assistance animal to wear a special collar or harness that identifies the animal as an assistance animal.

Assistance animals do not need any special certification or training. A housing provider can ask for proof that the assistance animal was vaccinated and require that it be housebroken.


The housing provider can address any problems with the animal’s behavior in the same manner it would address similar problems.


ADA vs. FHA:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which applies to businesses, employers, and government entities, limits the definition of “service animal” to dogs and miniature horses trained to perform a disability-related task.

The ADA does not cover a person’s need for an emotional support animal, unless the animal is trained to perform a disability-related task.

Housing providers must not confuse the definition of service animal under the ADA with the definition of assistance animal under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).


A housing provider must allow an assistance animal to accompany the person with a disability to all areas of the building where the public or residents are allowed.


IHRA Section 3-104.1:

Under the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), it is illegal for a housing provider to:

  1. refuse to sell or rent property to a person with a disability because of a guide, hearing, or support dog;
  2. discriminate against a person with a disability in contracting, selling, or renting property, or in any services or facilities related to the contract, sale, or rental because of a guide, hearing, or support dog;
  3. charge an extra fee for the guide, hearing, or support dog, other than for actual damage done by the dog.


The following is a list of best practices when interacting with assistance animals:

  • Do not pet the animal because this distracts the animal.
  • Do not feed the animal as the animal should be cared for and fed by its owner.
  • Do not startle or distract the animal.
  • Do not stand between the animal and its owner.
  • Do not assume a person with a disability wants to discuss the animal, the need for the animal, or assistance animals in general. Many people with disabilities do not care to share details regarding their disability or their assistance animal.

7E: Parking

If a housing provider offers parking for residents, the housing provider must reasonably accommodate a person with a disability by making an exception to its parking policies.

This obligation exists whether the parking spaces are available to residents on a first-come and first-serve basis or reserved.

Some residents with disabilities may need a formal accessible parking space (a space with an access aisle specifically designed, painted, and marked as an accessible parking space).

Others may simply need a reserved parking space close to an entrance. Thus, it is important to talk to the resident about what kind of parking space is needed and explore what options are available.


Proof that the resident has a disabled parking placard issued by the Illinois Secretary of State usually is sufficient to demonstrate the resident’s need for a reserved accessible parking space.

If a housing provider provides parking on a first-come and first-serve basis, the housing provider may need to reserve a space for a resident with a disability. Maintaining a certain number of accessible parking spaces may not be sufficient because those spaces may not be available when needed. Even if parking spaces are reserved, leased, or deeded, a housing provider must reasonably accommodate a resident.

Examples of Solutions for Reserved Parking:

  • Ask the user/owner of the leased or deeded space to voluntarily exchange the space
  • Modify the terms of the lease to allow the housing provider to exchange spaces
  • Reserve the space specifically for the resident with a disability once the current lease expires
  • If spaces cannot be exchanged, create new space from unused space in the parking lot, such as where the garbage bins or maintenance equipment is kept.

7F: Early Termination of Lease or Transfer to a Different Unit

Residents with disabilities who reside in a unit that is not accessible may request as an accommodation to:

  1. leave a unit early;
  2. transfer to a unit within the same building or development; or
  3. transfer to a unit in another building managed by the same housing provider.

Housing providers should consider these requests as they would any other reasonable accommodation requests. They may be required to waive any associated fees unless the waiver creates an undue burden for the housing provider.

Extra time to move:
A person with a disability may need more time than someone without a disability to find and move into alternative housing because affordable and accessible housing is in short supply. A housing provider who gives a resident with a disability a notice to vacate by a certain date may need to provide extra time to move as a reasonable accommodation based on a disability.

7G: Smoke-Free and Allergy/Chemical-Free Environment

A housing provider may need to accommodate a resident with severe asthma, allergies, chemical sensitivities, or other respiratory conditions by:

  • Restricting the use of certain chemicals and/or smoking in the common or public areas of the building.
  • Offering the resident the opportunity to move to a vacant unit away from the chemicals or drifting smoke.
  • Adopting smoke-free policies for an entire building or certain buildings in a multiple unit housing complex.
  • Repairing walls, windows, doorways, etc. and replacing carpeting to reduce or eliminate secondhand smoke seepage.
  • Changing heating or ventilation systems to eliminate secondhand smoke dispersal among apartment units.

7H: Aides

Live-in aides are workers who reside with residents with disabilities and provide essential care and/or assistance to the resident. Live-in aides may be professionals or relatives. If a housing provider has rules that limit who may occupy a unit with the resident, the housing provider may be obligated to make exceptions to those rules to allow a live-in aide as a reasonable accommodation.

Similarly, persons with a disability may need the assistance of a supportive health care worker, personal attendant, or a homemaker to visit the unit and provide services to the person with a disability.


If a housing provider has rules that limit who may visit, the housing provider may have to make exceptions to those rules to allow access to the building.

7I: Criminal History

A housing provider may have a policy to disqualify applicants with a criminal history. However, it may be discriminatory to exclude applicants with a criminal history, regardless of disability, without evaluating the candidate on a case-by-case basis and taking into consideration mitigating factors, such as the nature of the crime and length of time since the arrest or conviction.

Moreover, depending on fact-specific circumstances, a housing provider may need to reasonably accommodate an applicant with a disability if there is a connection between the criminal history and disability, although at least one court has concluded otherwise.

Example of Fact-Specific Circumstance of Criminal History and Disability:

Bernie, due to a psychiatric situation, was convicted of disorderly conduct twenty years ago. Since then he has received psychiatric treatment and has no other criminal incidents. He applies for an apartment with a landlord who has a policy that prohibits tenants with previous convictions. Bernie can ask for an accommodation to the policy because his conviction is related to his disability and he does not present a threat of harm.

7J: Credit History

A housing provider may have a policy to disqualify applicants based on poor credit history. However, in some circumstances, a housing provider may need to reasonably accommodate an applicant with a disability if there is a direct connection between the insufficient or poor credit and disability, and the person is otherwise qualified to rent (e.g. has sufficient income to pay the rent).

Examples of Fact-Specific Circumstances of Credit History and Disability:

  • Vladimir, was hospitalized for an extended period due to his disability, and was unable to pay bills. As a result, he accumulated a significant amount of credit debt. He has since worked out a payment plan for his debt and has sufficient income to continue renting an apartment, but now he has a poor credit score. He applies for a new apartment, but is rejected due to his credit score. Vladimir can ask for an accommodation because his poor credit is directly related to his disability.
  • Henry, who has a physical disability, has a large credit card debt and poor credit score due to overspending. He applies for an apartment but is rejected due to his poor credit score. Because his poor credit score is unrelated to his disability, the housing provider does not need to make an exception to its policy.

7K: Hoarding

If a person’s practice of hoarding constitutes a disability or results from a disability, the person may request a reasonable accommodation from the housing provider, such as extra time to clean up the unit and/or assistance in removing the clutter.

7L: Denying a Modification


Housing providers must have a valid reason to deny a modification.

  • Speculation that the modification violates a fire or building code is not sufficient. The housing provider must identify an actual violation of the fire or building code.

Example of Improper Denial:

A resident requests to install a chair lift in the common area stairway. There is sufficient space to install the chair lift under the fire and building codes. The housing provider cannot deny the request based on its fear that other residents are at risk in the event of a fire.

7M: Assurances


Before granting permission for a reasonable modification, the housing provider can require:

  • A description of the modification, which may be verbal or written depending on the nature of the proposed modification.
  • Reasonable assurances that the modification will be done in a professional manner.
  • The work be done in compliance with all relevant building and architectural codes, and performed by a licensed contractor. Note: The housing provider may not insist the resident use a specific contractor.
  • The resident obtain necessary permits.

A housing provider may deny a request as unreasonable if the housing provider asks for this information and it is not provided.

7N: Restoration

Housing providers can require that a resident remove a modification to a unit and restore the unit to its original condition at the end of the residency, if the housing provider requests it and it is reasonable to do so.

Generally, a housing provider should only require restoration if the modification affects a future resident’s enjoyment of the unit. A housing provider cannot require that a modification to a common area (e.g. a ramp to the front door) be restored to its original condition.

Examples of Individual Unit Restoration:

  • Because Pam uses a wheelchair, she obtained permission from her housing provider to remove the base cabinets and lower the kitchen sink. It is reasonable for the housing provider to require Pam, when she vacates, to reinstall the cabinets and raise the sink back to its original height.
  • Because of a mobility disability, Rich obtained approval from the housing provider to widen doorways in his unit to allow him to maneuver through them in his wheelchair. It is not reasonable for the housing provider to require him to restore the doorways to their prior width because a slightly wider door does not interfere with the use of the apartment.


In limited circumstances, if the housing provider requests restoration and is uncertain the resident will be able to pay for restoration, the housing provider can require a deposit into an interest-bearing account to cover restoration costs. The interest generated from the account will count towards the restoration costs.

7O: Retaliation

Retaliation occurs when a housing provider attempts to discourage a resident from, or punishes a resident for, requesting a reasonable accommodation or modification by taking an adverse action against the resident.


A housing provider cannot retaliate against a resident because the resident requested an accommodation or modification.

Adverse actions which could be retaliatory if in response to a request for an accommodation or modification:

  • Non-renewal of lease
  • Increase in rent
  • Eviction
  • Harassment