As a professional apartment management company, we know the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and various state laws require us to review and respond to reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification requests. These requests (from residents and/or applicants) can be oral or in writing. Some (but not all) requests need limited medical verification. So far, so good.
Last week, however, a community manager at a property I represent received a letter from a resident’s doctor describing two types of disabilities. Which is absolutely fine and appropriate. The problem, however, is that the resident has not asked for a reasonable accommodation or a reasonable modification because of any disability. And the resident has no obvious disability for which management can know what she needs.
As such, what do we do? While the FHA absolutely mandates we engage in the interactive process and work to accommodate our residents, the guidance makes clear that resident are required to affirmatively make a specific request so management can evaluate and review it. The law typically does not presume management should need to guess as to the accommodation or modification to be requested. Accordingly, in this circumstance, I wrote the resident a letter thanking her for the medical note and asking her to let management know what accommodation or modification she may require so management can evaluate it.
The worst thing a leasing office can do is to just put such a letter in the file and hope it will go away. It will not. And once a complaint gets filed, we will have to explain the inaction. Which will unnecessarily complicate a situation. And in which case you will really need to talk with a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.