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Reasonable Accommodations

Reasonable Accommodations for People with Disabilities

An estimated 41% of federally subsidized households include people with disabilities. Affordable housing is especially critical for these families because many households with a disabled family member are dependent upon public benefits such as Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which do not provide enough income for people to afford market-rate housing. People with disabilities not only face significant barriers to obtaining housing, but a disability can create challenges to maintaining housing as well. Some of these barriers are physical, while others are created by policies, rules, and regulations.

One way in which federal law seeks to ensure equal access to the full use and enjoyment of federally assisted housing for people with disabilities is through requirements that housing providers must provide reasonable accommodations to tenants with disabilities. In the housing context, a reasonable accommodation is a change in a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary to allow a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. Failure to provide a reasonable accommodation may be construed as discrimination.

Administrative Guidance

Trainings

  • NHLP training on Reasonable Accommodation and Modification for People with Disabilities, Legal Services of Northern California, April 17, 2016.

Resource Packets and Articles

  • NHLP, Reasonable Accommodations Comprehensive Outline
    This is a comprehensive outline regarding reasonable accommodations under federal law including laws and definitions; how to request a reasonable accommodation; common issues arising in federally assisted housing; failure to provide a reasonable accommodation; methods of enforcement; and affirmative advocacy
  • NHLP, Bulletin Article on HUD & DOJ Reasonable Modifications Guidance.

Cases

  • Reasonable Accommodations for Late Payment of Rent
    1. Fair Hous. Rights Ctr. in Southeastern Penn. v. Morgan Properties Management Co., LLC, Slip Copy 2017 WL 1326240 (E.D. Penn. Apr. 11, 2017). This decision affirms that the denial of a reasonable accommodation for late payment of rent due to receiving public benefits is a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
  • Co-Signers on Lease
    1. Giebeler v. M& B Assoc., 343 F.3d 1143 (9th Cir. 2003). Holding that landlord interfered with the use and enjoyment of the disabled-plaintiff’s prospective home by refusing to accommodate its policy forbidding co-signers on the lease.
  • Direct Threat
    1. Super v. D’Amelia & Assocs., LLC, 2010 WL 3926887 (D. Conn. Sept. 30, 2010). Finding that housing violated FHA and Section 504 when it terminated a tenant’s voucher for assaulting an employee without considering her request for reasonable accommodation which included her seeking mental health treatment.
    2. Roe v. Sugar River Mills Assoc., 820 F. Supp. 636 (D.N.H. 1993). Plaintiff, who was a person with a mental health disability, threatened another tenant with physical violence by using obscene and offensive language, which resulted in that tenant vacating his unit and plaintiff receiving a criminal conviction. The court held that the FHAA required a showing that no reasonable accommodation would minimize the risk to others before plaintiff can be lawfully evicted.
    3. Roe v. Hous. Auth. of Boulder, 909 F. Supp. 814 (D. Colo. 1995). Tenant with a mental health disability attacked and seriously injured another resident. The attack was in addition to other complaints about the tenant’s abusive and threatening behavior. However, the court still held that the tenant must be afforded reasonable accommodation before being denied federally assisted housing.
    4. Churney v. Chicago Hous. Auth., 2013 WL 589599 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 14, 2013). Public housing authority didn’t violate fair housing laws when terminating voucher of person who was convicted of a sex offense because PHA had a legitimate concerns about resident safety.
    5. Cincinnati Metro. Hous. Auth. v. Brown, 2013 WL 5432087 (Ct. of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton Cty., Sep. 25, 2013). Reasonable accommodation was properly denied because resident presented a direct threat and did not state how a reasonable accommodation would lessen the likelihood of her behavior.
  • Failure to address reasonable accommodation on a case-by-case basis.
    1. Huynh v. Harasz, 2016 WL 2757219 (N.D. Cal. May 12, 2016). The court determined that a blanket policy of denying reasonable accommodation requests for an additional bedroom due to disability would be a violation of the Fair Housing Act, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, American Disabilities Act, and Section 504.