Searching for the ideal renter for your rental home can be a challenge. Soon-to-be renters come in all shapes and sizes, and many have personal matters of their own. Sometimes, the personal matters of a renter overlap with your duties as a landlord, and this is where the Fair Housing Act (FHA) often comes into play. It is important to understand what those duties are in order to respond appropriately to situations covered by the Act.
The Fair Housing Act’s reasonable accommodation requirements are designed to protect both you and your residents against disability discrimination. The sanity protocol behind this policy holds that since certain rules or protocols might impact persons with disabilities differently than those without, treating all renters exactly the same may actually deny disabled persons important use-aspects of a rental home. For this reason, the FHA allows renters to request “reasonable accommodations” at any point in the leasing process or occupation of the property.
So, what exactly is a “reasonable” accommodation?
According to the FHA, a “reasonable” accommodation is any modification in “rules, policies, practices, or services” necessary for an individual with a disability to have equal opportunity to perform routine major life activities (for example walking, eating, sleeping) at home. This might mean that a renter with a hearing impairment wants smoke gauges with flashing lights installed in the home. Other examples of reasonable accommodations may comprise of:
- Large print rental documents for the visually impaired
- Helping someone with mental impairments fill out paperwork
- Assigning a lower mailbox for a person in a wheelchair
- Permitting an assistance animal (including emotional support animals) in an otherwise “no pets allowed” residence
- Installing safety bars in showers or bathtubs
What makes these “reasonable” modifications is that they are both directly related to the person’s disability and are within the ability of the property owner to allow. Typically, renters are responsible for the installation and removal of any physical modifications.
This does not mean that property owners should accommodate every request. For example, if a renter with the paranoia of dogs requests that a neighbor’s dog is taken away from the property next door, this is evidently unreasonable and may be safely denied. Any modifications requested by the renter must be both necessary and within the property owner’s financial and administrative ability to complete. If an initial request is found to be unreasonable, the landlord should team up with the resident to offer an alternative solution that may still address the disabled person’s needs. The concept of “reasonable accommodation” is broad and quite flexible, which means there will often be more than one effective solution.
The last thing a property owner wants is to worry about FHA compliance. At Real Property Management NJ Elite, we have the competence to promise you and your property will be up to the standard of responding appropriately to accommodation requests. Want to learn more? Please contact us online or call us directly at 908-955-7487.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.