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Understanding Your Rights
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Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Americans  with Disabilities Act of 1990 --Title III-Public
Accommodations
Fair Housing Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable Modifications
Frequently Asked Questions

REASONABLE MODIFICATIONS

Under the Fair Housing Act, it is also unlawful for any person to refuse to permit, at the expense of the handicapped person, reasonable modifications of existing premises occupied or intended to be occupied by such person if such modifications may be necessary to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises of a dwelling.112 A “modification” means any change to the public or common use areas of a building or any change to a dwelling unit.113
 

NOTE:

Although tenants are generally responsible for paying the costs of the modifications, this is not the case if the modifications should already be in place. Many apartment complexes that were built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, do not meet all of the accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act. If the apartment complex is not in compliance with the accessibility requirements, the owner of the complex must pay for any modifications that a tenant requests in order to bring the complex into compliance. Furthermore, if the tenant lives at an apartment complex that receives federal funds, the tenant can, in most cases, request that the owner of the apartment complex pay for the modifications, as an accommodation to the tenant

In the case of a rental unit, the landlord may, where it is reasonable to do so, condition permission for a modification on the renter agreeing to restore the interior of the premises to the condition that existed before the modification, reasonable wear and tear excepted.114

The landlord may not increase for handicapped persons any customarily required security deposit. However, where it is necessary in order to ensure with reasonable certainty that funds will be available to pay for the restorations at the end of the tenancy, the landlord may negotiate as part of such a restoration agreement a provision requiring that the tenant pay into an interest bearing escrow account, over a reasonable period, a reasonable amount of money not to exceed the cost of the restorations. The interest in any such account shall accrue to the benefit of the tenant.115 This means that landlords may not routinely require such escrow payments, but must instead make a case-by-case determination based on such factors as the extent and nature of the modification involved, the duration of the lease, and the credit and rental history of the individual tenant.116

A landlord may condition permission for a modification on the renter providing a reasonable description of the proposed modifications as well as reasonable assurances that the work will be done in a workmanlike manner and that any required building permits will be obtained.117

EXAMPLE# 1:
An applicant for rental housing has a child who uses a wheelchair. The bathroom door in the dwelling unit is too narrow to permit the wheelchair to pass. The applicant asks the landlord for permission to widen the doorway at the applicant's own expense. It is unlawful for the landlord to refuse to permit the applicant to make the modification. Furthermore, the landlord may not, in usual circumstances, condition permission for the modification on the applicant paying for the doorway to be narrowed at the end of the lease because a wider doorway will not interfere with the landlord's or the next tenant's use and enjoyment of the premises.118

EXAMPLE# 2:
A disabled tenant asks his landlord for permission to install grab bars in the bathroom at his own expense. It is necessary to reinforce the walls with blocking between studs in order to affix the grab bars. It is unlawful for the landlord to refuse to permit the tenant, at the tenant’s own expense, from making the modifications necessary to add the grab bars. However, the landlord may condition permission for the modification on the tenant agreeing to restore the bathroom to the condition that existed before the modification, reasonable wear and tear excepted. It would be reasonable for the landlord to require the tenant to remove the grab bars at the end of his tenancy. The landlord may also reasonably require that the wall to which the grab bars are to be attached be repaired and restored to its original condition, reasonable wear and tear excepted. However, it would be unreasonable for the landlord to require the tenant to remove the blocking, since the reinforced walls will not interfere in any way with the landlord’s or the next tenant’s use and enjoyment of the premises and may be needed by some future tenant.119
 

FAIR HOUSING TIP:
  When requesting a reasonable accommodation and/or modification, you should always:
  1. Submit the request in writing to your landlord. In the letter, explain the accommodation and/or modification that you need due to your disability;
  2. Attach supporting medical documentation as it relates to the accommodation and/or modification that you are requesting. This can include letters from doctors, mental health practitioners, therapists, social workers, or other health care providers. In this letter, the health care provider should indicate whether you are disabled and whether he/she recommends the accommodation and/or modification that your are requesting, due to your disability. This letter does NOT need to disclose any of your disabilities, but instead, should just state that you are disabled and need the accommodation and/or modification, due to your disability;
  3. Keep a copy of your request letter and any attachments for your records; and
  4. Send your request letter and any attachments by certified mail return receipt requested in order to prove that the landlord received the request.

PROHIBITIONS BASED ON OTHER PROTECTED CLASSES

In addition to disability discrimination, the Fair Housing Act states that discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, and/or national origin is unlawful in the sale or rental of most housing. According to the Act, it is unlawful, based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, disability, or national origin, for a landlord, real estate agent, mortgage loan officer, condominium association, homeowners’ association, or any other person to engage in discriminatory housing practices which include, but are not limited to:

  • To refuse to sell or rent a dwelling to a person who has made a bona fide offer or to refuse to negotiate with a person for the sale or rental of housing.
  • To make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published, any notice, statement, or advertisement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination because of one of the protected categories above.
  • To assign any person to a particular floor of a building or to a particular section of an apartment complex, community, neighborhood, or development.
  • To discourage the purchase or rental of a dwelling by exaggerating drawbacks or failing to inform any person of desirable features of a dwelling, community, neighborhood, or development.
  • To communicate to any prospective purchaser or renter that he or she would not be comfortable or compatible with existing residents of a neighborhood.
  • To provide inaccurate or untrue information about the availability of dwellings for sale or rent.
  • To limit information, by word or conduct, regarding suitably priced dwellings available for inspection, sale, or rent.
  • To discharge or take adverse action against an employee, broker, or agent because he or she refused to participate in a discriminatory housing practice.
  • To fail or refuse to provide any person, in connection with a residential real estate-related transaction, information regarding the availability of loans or other financial assistance, application requirements, procedures, or standards for review and approval of loans or financial assistance, or to provide information which is inaccurate or different than that provided others.
  • To coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person in his or her exercise or enjoyment of a dwelling or fair housing rights.

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