My last post about reasonable accommodations related to smoking as a potential disability generated a few reader comments. Which is great. Here is how smoking and a disability related reasonable accommodation play out in the real world, particularly in the world where more apartment communities are eliminating smoking altogether. Indeed, for many years smoking has been largely prohibited in common areas and the leasing office. Now, many apartment owners are taking the next step and including a provision in all new leases (and lease renewals as they come up) to forbid smoking in individual apartment homes as well.
Most of the time when management hears from residents concerning smoking, it is because someone has a sensitivity to second hand smoke or is allergic to smoke. And smoke from one apartment drifts into another apartment. And one resident will submit a reasonable accommodation request asking to transfer units, install window and/or door seals, fresh air machines, and the like. In these circumstances, management will engage in the interactive process and seek a solution that works for both valued residents. Professional apartment management employees are in the business of keeping residents and satisfied residents are much more likely to renew their leases with us.
But what about the situation where a resident suffering from depression and/or anxiety (which can certainly be recognized disabilities) submits a reasonable accommodation request with a note signed by a doctor or health care provider. The note says that the resident suffers from depression and smoking alleviates the symptoms. And as a reasonable accommodation to the resident’s disability, management is requested to waive its no smoking policy. While every circumstance requires an individualized review, permitting smoking as a reasonable accommodation for a disability seems backward as related to health and I doubt a court would require us to do so. Now, make no mistake, management will still work with the resident to find a way to resolve the request. One solution might be to let the resident out of his lease without an early termination penalty as a reasonable accommodation. There could be other solutions, depending on the disability and individual request. The worst option, of course, would be to ignore the request and fail to respond to it.
Just A Thought.