Time for a quick refresher. A "reasonable accommodation" is a change in a rule or policy that permits a resident (or applicant) with a recognized disability to obtain the full benefits of every housing opportunity. Examples of a reasonable accommodation include changing the date that rent is due because a disability check arrives on a certain day each month or permitting a service animal in a community that does not otherwise welcome pets.
A "reasonable modification" is a physical change or alteration to a unit. Common examples of reasonable modifications are grab bars in a bathroom or lowering of a thermostat.
Pursuant to the Fair Housing Act (FHA), it is incumbent on management to evaluate and respond to reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification requests. For disabilities that are not obvious, management is permitted to obtain limited medical information in order to evaluate the disability and the nexus to the requested accommodation/modification.
Under the FHA, at conventional communities, the resident is typically responsible for the cost of a modification to his or her unit. That being said, I have seen cases where management agrees to share costs. However, if the property is affordable (in that it receives government assistance), then the costs of the reasonable modification may well be the responsibility of management. Does that mean management must grant each request in the form requested by the resident? No. But it does mean that management is required to evaluate the accommodation or modification request and inform the resident what can (or cannot) be done.
There is no required form or magic language for a reasonable accommodation/modification request. All that is required is that management be put on notice that an accommodation or modification has been requested along with the reason for it. At that point, the burden shifts to management to respond to the resident.
The biggest mistake I see in this area: failing to appropriately consider and respond to an accommodation or modification request. This is an unforced error that can — and should — be avoided. Or you will need a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.