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Fair Housing Act: Reasonable Accommodations

The federal Fair Housing Act outlaws discrimination in housing, including discrimination based on disability.  The law prohibits housing providers from discriminating against 1) a disabled buyer or renter; 2) a prospective disabled buyer or renter; or 3) a disabled person associated with that buyer or renter. 42 USC § 3604(f)1.

The law also requires housing providers to “make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” 42 USC § 3604(f)3(b).  For example, a landlord that does not permit pets must allow a blind tenant to have a guide dog, and an apartment complex with unassigned parking places must reserve a spot close to the building for a tenant who cannot walk.  These  accommodations are necessary to provide a disabled individual an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling.  However, housing providers can deny the accommodation request if the request is not reasonable – for instance if it causes an undue financial or administrative burden or fundamentally alters the provider’s operations.

Property managers should have an established process for evaluating reasonable accommodation requests, including a reasonable accommodation request form for tenants that can be distributed with the lease and other documents given to the tenant.  If a request is determined to be unreasonable, the landlord should explain the decision in writing and offer to discuss alternative accommodations.

For answers to more frequently asked questions about the Fair Housing Act, visit http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/library/huddojstatement.pdf.

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