Reasonable Accommodations and Live-In Aides
The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to make “reasonable accommodations” in their rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a disabled tenant or prospective tenant equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. The tenant may make the request at the time the tenant first rents or after the tenancy has begun.
One common reasonable accommodation request occurs when a disabled tenant asks a landlord to allow a permanent live-in aide to live in his or her unit and assist with daily activities such as cooking, bathing, or administering medicine. This request can be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by asking some of the following questions:
Is this request reasonable? It might be if the unit can accommodate an additional person living there without creating a safety risk. It might not be if the proposed live-in aide does not meet the landlord’s tenant selection criteria or violates provisions in the resident’s lease.
Is the live-in aide necessary? The tenant’s disability and related need for a live-in aide should be well-documented. Landlords may also determine if the requested live-in aide is qualified, was not part of the tenant’s household, and is legitimately there to serve as an aide.
Will accommodating the request provide the tenant equal opportunity to use or enjoy the property? This language addresses the extent of the accommodation; permitting the live-in aide must allow the tenant to use the property as equally as other tenants – not more or less.
Landlords should be prepared for a tenant to request a live-in aide and should train their staff to evaluate and respond to the request. Failing to respond correctly can expose the landlord to a lawsuit under the Fair Housing Act.