Readers of this space know that I regularly write that professional apartment management maintains an absolute obligation to review, evaluate, and respond to every reasonable accommodation (and/or reasonable modification) request we receive from our residents (and/or our applicants). I am certainly not writing that management must grant each request in the form it was made, but management must consider and respond to it. Doing so is part of the interactive process developed in the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
Which is all fine and good. Except, what happens when a resident facing eviction (typically for non-payment of rent, but it can be for any other valid, non-discriminatory reason) submits a reasonable accommodation or modification request during the pendency of an eviction action? Not to be cynical, but I would be shocked if a plaintiff’s lawyer would attempt to prevent an eviction by submitting, for example, a reasonable modification request seeking a ramp for his or her now disabled client shortly after receiving a notice to vacate or the start of a court eviction action.
Can management simply decline to respond to the reasonable modification request because the resident is likely going to be evicted in the near future? Because why should a ramp get built (and paid for) when the resident is on his or her way out? Easy question, right?
No. The law provides that management must review and evaluate reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification requests received at any time. Even if a resident is facing an eviction action. Should the resident file a discrimination complaint, HUD (or the state, city, or county agency investigating the case) will conclude that management failed to engage in the interactive process if we simply stop processing a request because a resident may be leaving our community. If this situation comes up in your community, you might want to speak with a lawyer like me to determine the best way to proceed.
Just A Thought.