Here is a fact pattern that is just all too common in our fair housing management world. A resident, for example, stops paying his rent. As we do with all residents who fail to pay the agreed upon rent, the leasing office sends the appropriate notice and then starts an eviction action pursuant to local law if the rent remains unpaid. Shortly before the case is set to go to court, the leasing office receives a reasonable accommodation/reasonable modification request from the resident or even a formal fair housing complaint filed with HUD, a state, city, or a county agency. In the reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification request, the resident (for the first time) claims he has a disability and needs management to do something for him.
Is it possible the request is legitimate? Well, sure. Is it more likely the resident is attempting to use the law to delay and prevent an eviction? Yes. And the fair housing laws are clear that management must not retaliate against a resident because he filed a discrimination complaint. Many times I will get a call from an investigator asking if I will delay the eviction action because of the pending fair housing complaint. That is always a difficult discussion, but one I have had any number of times. And if your resident submitted a reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification request even after failing to pay his rent? We must review, evaluate, and respond to it in the ordinary course.
The takeaway for management? We must continue to engage in the interactive process with our residents – even if there is a pending eviction action and/or a pending housing discrimination complaint. A resident is a resident and our obligations remain.
Just A Thought.