I try to avoid using my active cases as specific examples here at the Fair Housing Defense blog, but today I am going to make an exception. I won’t discuss the details of the case or even the location, but I do want to address an issue I am doing my best to ensure HUD and the courts remain aware of: as a housing provider, we can only be obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation (or reasonable modification) to a resident or an applicant if a request for an accommodation (or modification) is actually made. In other words, if a resident does not ask for an accommodation, management should not be retroactively responsible because we did not do something that was never asked of us.
Indeed, under our Fair Housing Act, is would be unlawful for management: (a) to ask if a resident or an applicant for housing has a disability; or (b) to ask about the nature or severity of a person’s disability. Again, reasonable accommodation and/or reasonable modification requests come from the residents/applicants. The leasing office staff is not to guess or make assumptions about what a resident may or may not seek because of a disability.
To be sure, residents are not required to use a certain form nor can management mandate any “magic” words. While I believe it is always good practice for accommodation and/or modification requests to come in writing (email is fine), there is no requirement that the request be written down. All that is required is that a person, a family member, or someone acting on behalf of a person requests a change, an exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy or service because of a disability.
Depending on the request, a housing provider may request reliable disability related information if it is necessary to verify that the person meets the definition of “disabled” (has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities) under the law, describes the sought after accommodation, and identifies the nexus between the disability and the requested accommodation. Management’s goal is to simply seek only the information that is necessary to appropriately evaluate the request. But we cannot start down that path without receiving a request for our resident or applicant.
I will report back at some point how the case came out.
Just A Thought.