If you are living with a disability and seeking to rent an apartment, it may be necessary to request that the property owner make needed modifications that will allow you to successfully navigate your living environment. This is known as a request for reasonable accommodation and consideration of such requests is a legal requirement established by the Fair Housing Act.
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a reasonable accommodation is a “change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces.” Examples of reasonable accommodations could include things such as creating an accessible parking space, providing an apartment on the lowest level, making bathroom modifications such as adding grip bars or allowing a service animal even if pets are not allowed.
There are several ways to go about making reasonable accommodation requests. Requesting accommodation in writing is preferable when possible because it creates a way to permanently document the request and can be referred back to in the event that clarification is needed. Some property owner’s may provide you with a form to make a request for reasonable accommodation, but this is not legally required. The written request can also be a note or letter from you specifying what types of accommodation would be helpful to increase your ability to reside in the desired location.
Of course, there may be circumstances where it is not possible to ask for reasonable accommodation in writing. Because there is no provision in the law specifying how the request for accommodation be made, a verbal request is just as valid as a written one. However you choose to communicate your accommodation request, make it as clear as possible to minimize confusion and expedite the property owner’s ability to understand and respond in a timely manner.
The Fair Housing Act specifies that it is the tenant’s responsibility to make a request of the property owner for the needed accommodations. Of course, if you choose, it is also acceptable for you to have someone else make the accommodation request as your representative. Once you or your representative make a request for reasonable accommodation, the property owner is required by law to give your request prompt consideration. However, the property owner is allowed time to research and request additional information about the request. Ignoring a request for reasonable accommodation is a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
If you have a disability, knowing your rights as specified in the Fair Housing Act can be very beneficial as you initiate the process of requesting reasonable accommodation from a property owner. Being informed and prepared puts you in an ideal position to effectively advocate for your needs. Making a clear request for reasonable accommodations and keeping the lines of communication open with potential landlords could ultimately lead to a mutually beneficial arrangement that is advantageous for all parties.