A question I regularly get asked is who is responsible for paying for a reasonable accommodation or a reasonable modification. Here is a brief summary.

A reasonable modification is a structural change made to an existing premises occupied by a person with a disability (and disability is typically defined as an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity) in order to afford such a person the full enjoyment of the premises. Reasonable modifications can include structural changes to interiors and exteriors of a unit as well as common areas. A reasonable accommodation is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy or practice used in running a community. A person with a disability can request either a reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification.  It is good practice to solicit written accommodation requests, but there is no requirement in the law that the requests come in writing.

For conventional communities, the general rule is that management is responsible for absorbing the cost of a reasonable accommodation (to the extent there is a cost associated with changing a policy or procedure) but that the resident is responsible for paying for the costs related to a modification of a unit or common area. In practice, management will often agree to some type of cost sharing with the resident as a part of the interactive process expected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

That being said, housing that receives federal financial assistance is covered by both the FHA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  Under the Section 504 implementing regulations, structural changes (reasonable modifications) needed by a resident with a disability must be paid for by the housing provider (management) unless providing them would be an undue financial and administrative burden or would represent a fundamental alteration of the program.  Indeed, there are also times when management can also offer to meet the resident’s needs through a different accommodation. 

Requests for accommodations or modifications can be made at any time. It is important that management respond to requests in a timely manner. Failing to respond (or an undue delay in responding) can lead to a housing discrimination complaint and a probable cause finding which never should have been issued. Don’t let that unnecessarily happen to you.

Just a Thought.