If you have a disability that is making it hard for you to find or keep an apartment you may ask a landlord to make changes that would make it easier for you to live there. This is called a reasonable accommodation.
The law says that landlords have to make accommodations (changes) in their rules, procedures or policies that will let people with disabilities have equal use and enjoyment of housing. But the changes have to be reasonable. A change is reasonable if it is necessary, does not cost the landlord a lot of money or other resources, and if it does not cause a fundamental change in the nature of the landlord's business.
Example of a Reasonable Accommodation:
Betty has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Before she was diagnosed, she missed work many times due to severe mood swings and depression. Because of her poor performance at work, Betty was fired from her job, and could not pay rent. Now she has an eviction on her record from that time. Betty is looking for a new home. She applied at an apartment that has a policy against renting to anyone with an eviction record. Betty could ask for a reasonable accommodation. She could ask the landlord to adjust the rules in her case because her eviction happened because of her mental illness. However, Betty would have to give the landlord some kind of guarantee that she would follow the lease and pay her rent in the future. This could be things like proof that she is controlling her bipolar with medication, or a letter from her boss stating that she is reliable and has not missed work. She could also offer to pay an extra damage deposit.
Answer the following questions:
1. Are you having problems getting or staying in your home because of your disability?
2. Will the change you are asking for let you get an apartment or help you to be able to stay in your apartment?
3. Will you be able to follow your lease if the change is made?
4. After the change, can you make sure your behavior will not threaten the health and safety and property of others in the building?
If you answer YES to all 4, then you should ask for a reasonable accommodation.
If you want to ask for a reasonable accommodation, if possible, you should:
1. Put your request in writing and keep a copy for yourself
2. Attach any documents or letters of reference that help prove and support your request
Once you have asked for the accommodation, it is up to the landlord to accept it or explain why it is not disability-related, necessary, or reasonable. Remember, there is no easy right or wrong answer to the questions about reasonable accommodations. Try to think of things you can ask for that the landlord will be okay with so that you can get or keep your home. This is your chance to be creative!
If your disability is not obvious you may need verification from a professional that you are disabled. This could be a medical doctor, a psychologist, or a licensed social worker, depending on your disability. If it is not obvious how the accommodation will help the disability-related housing problem, you may need someone who can explain the connections and why it is necessary. See our article, "Tips for Professionals", in our library here.
• Answered YES to the 4 questions above
• Made your request for a reasonable accommodation and
• Provided needed verifications
BUT the landlord refuses to make any changes, it may be a case of illegal housing discrimination.
A lawyer or agency may help you enforce your rights through negotiations, charges or law suits. See our Find Legal Help section to complete our guided interview to identify your local agencies.
Whatever you do, act fast! In most cases, you need to file a fair housing complaint or lawsuit within one or two years.