Under the federal Fair Housing Act and local fair housing laws, housing providers must accommodate the needs of disabled applicants and tenants. A landlord or manager must reasonably adjust rules, procedures or services to give disabled tenants equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or a common space. Housing providers must also allow disabled tenants to make reasonable modifications to their living unit or common areas at the tenant’s expense, if needed for them to live comfortably and safely in their units.
Housing providers cannot ask applicants or tenants whether they have a disability, ask for details about the condition, or ask to see medical records. If a person requests a reasonable accommodation or modification, a housing provider may ask for proof that the request will address the tenant’s disability needs. Upon request, the tenant should provide a letter from a healthcare practitioner verifying the person has a disability and requires the modification or accommodation. The nature of the disability does not have to be disclosed.
To clarify: “Requesting an accommodation means” that a tenant is requesting a rule change from the landlord due to disability.
Some common accommodations are: Requesting a service animal, having the lease printed in large print, moving to a different unit, allowing a personal care attendant and other requests based on the need of the tenant and the nature of the disability. If you are asking for a modification, it means you are asking to alter the physical state of the property, for example, asking to install handrails in the shower, a wheelchair ramp, or lever door handles and automatic door closers, just to name a few.
How to request a reasonable accommodation/modification from your landlord:
Submit your request to the landlord or property manager in writing and describe the accommodation you are requesting. A landlord may ask for verification of your disability, in which case you can provide a letter from a healthcare provider. Again, both letters do not need to disclose the nature of the disability, just the specifics of what accommodation or modification is needed in your case. The landlord may discuss this with you and may also suggest an alternate route to meet your needs.
You may also submit the request verbally, however submitting it in writing is beneficial so you have a record of the request. While discussing the logistics with the landlord, they may request that the tenant return the premises to their original state when they leave, unless the modifications will not interfere with the next tenant’s use and enjoyment of the premises.
Tenants can contact Solid Ground’s Tenant Services Hotline (206.694.6767; the hotline is answered only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 am – 4 pm) and ask to receive a packet with information and sample letters on reasonable accommodations/modifications as well as to discuss their specific situation. More information, along with hours of operation, is listed on our website. General information about Fair Housing laws and regulations can be found here, where you’ll also find information about “protected classes,” which can help you understand how Fair Housing laws operate.
You can address questions about requests for reasonable accommodation and modification as well as any concerns you have if you feel you have been discriminated against by contacting one of these Fair Housing agencies to file a complaint or receive more information for your specific situation. If you are not sure which agency to contact, you can call the Tenant Hotline to receive information and referral to the appropriate agency in your area.
Legal disclaimer: The information contained in this post or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.