A reasonable accommodation is a change in policies or rules, or a structural modification, that enables a person with a disability to live on the premises and enjoy equal access to its benefits.
Everyone is accustomed to seeing ramps that provide access for persons with physical disabilities. However, sometimes a person with a disability needs a waiver or modification of one the policies or rules that the landlord applies to everyone because the rule prevents the person with a disability from being able to rent or live in the building. For example, a person with a disability who had a poor credit history that was caused by the disability (not just being poor) can request an accommodation that the landlord disregards that history.
The landlord is not required to grant an accommodation but must provide a good faith response to the request. Refusing a reasonable accommodation can be discrimination; in addition, failure to respond to a request for a reasonable accommodation is discrimination.
A reasonable accommodation cannot impose an undue burden on the landlord. Usually, the undue burden is related to the cost of the accommodation. The person with the disability may be required to pay the cost of an accommodation.
Undue burden is determined on a case by case basis which will take into account the cost of the change and the resources of the landlord. A large public housing authority will usually be expected to make more changes than the private owner of a three family building.
Landlords are not required to make changes that would alter the fundamental nature of services that he or she provides. For example, a large apartment complex with an exercise room for tenants is not required to provide a trainer for the tenant with the disability to enable the tenant to use the equipment. However, the landlord could be required to make the room available only to the tenant with the disability at a particular time if that were necessary for the tenant to use the equipment (i.e., at a time when s/he can obtain necessary assistance).
A request for a reasonable accommodation can be made orally and need not use the words “reasonable accommodation.” However, CLRP suggests that requests be in writing to make a record. A landlord or housing authority cannot require that a request be made only on a specific form.
The landlord/property manager cannot require a medical release, or that the tenant provide medical records documenting the disability, but the tenant must document a disability. Often that can be done by documenting receipt of Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income. A specific diagnosis or detailed information is not required.
A reasonable accommodation is not required simply because a person has a disability. A person whose poor credit history is not related to the disability cannot get an accommodation regarding the credit history. The request must show the connection between the disability and the requested accommodation. Sometimes this means some information about the disability must be disclosed.
A reasonable accommodation can be requested at any time, including the time of eviction or a housing court trial. It’s never too late!!! However, usually it is better to ask as soon as possible.
There are no specific guidelines for accommodations or restrictions on the types of accommodations that can be requested. People requesting accommodations should be as creative as possible in trying to resolve problems. The following are some examples:
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Connecticut Legal Rights Project, Inc., (CLRP) is a statewide non-profit agency which provides legal services to low income individuals with mental health conditions, who reside in hospitals or the community, on matters related to their treatment, recovery, and civil rights.
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Connecticut Legal Rights Project, Inc.