A "reasonable accommodation" is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. To show that a requested accommodation may be necessary, there must be an identifiable relationship – or nexus – between the requested accommodation and the individual’s disability. 

Relatively simple reasonable accommodation requests are those that seek a designated handicapped parking spot or waiver of a "no pets" policy.

The harder decisions come when a request has nothing whatsoever to do with the claimed disability. Additionally, a reasonable accommodation can be denied if providing the accommodation is not reasonable – for example, if it would impose an undue financial or administrative burden on the housing provider or if it would fundamentally alter the nature of the provider’s services.

Also, a housing provider has an obligation to provide prompt responses to a request for a reasonable accommodation. An undue delay in responding to a requested accommodation may be deemed to be a failure to provide that reasonable accommodation.

A reasonable modification is a structural change made to existing premises occupied (or to be occupied) to a person with a disability in order to afford such a person full enjoyment of the premises. Reasonable modifications can include structural changes to interiors and exteriors of communities as well as to common and public use areas. A request for a reasonable modification can be made at any time during a residency.

As with a reasonable accommodation, to show that a requested modification may be necessary, there must be an identifiable relationship – or nexus – between the requested modification and the individual’s disability. Furthermore, the requested modification must be reasonable. Examples of modifications includes grab bars in bathrooms or lowering of kitchen cabinets to a height suitable for persons in a wheelchair.

The general rule concerning costs involving reasonable modifications is that the resident is required to pay for them at conventional communities and that management is required to pay for them at affordable communities. To be sure, there are many times when management at a conventional property will work with a resident and engage in some type of cost sharing in an effort to further attempt to meet the needs of our valued residents.

The bottom line is to work with your residents and engage in the interactive process contemplated under the FHA and its implementing regulations. If management cannot grant the request for an accommodation or modification, is there an alternative accommodation or modification that would effectively address the requester’s disability-related needs? If there is, you should propose it. And you should document in writing your proposed solution.

Just A Thought.