Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Reasonable Accommodations and Live-In Aides

The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to make "reasonable accommodations" in their rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a disabled tenant or prospective tenant equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. The tenant may make the request at the time the tenant first rents or after the tenancy has begun.

One common reasonable accommodation request occurs when a disabled tenant asks a landlord to allow a permanent live-in aide to live in his or her unit and assist with daily activities such as cooking, bathing, or administering medicine. This request can be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by asking some of the following questions:
  • Is this request reasonable? It might be if the unit can accommodate an additional person living there without creating a safety risk. It might not be if the proposed live-in aide does not meet the landlord's tenant selection criteria or violates provisions in the resident's lease.
  • Is the live-in aide necessary? The tenant’s disability and related need for a live-in aide should be well-documented. Landlords may also determine if the requested live-in aide is qualified, was not part of the tenant's household, and is legitimately there to serve as an aide.
  • Will accommodating the request provide the tenant equal opportunity to use or enjoy the property? This language addresses the extent of the accommodation; permitting the live-in aide must allow the tenant to use the property as equally as other tenants - not more or less.
Landlords should be prepared for a tenant to request a live-in aide and should train their staff to evaluate and respond to the request. Failing to respond correctly can expose the landlord to a lawsuit under the Fair Housing Act.

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