As discussed regularly in this space (and elsewhere), the number of reasonable accommodation and/or reasonable modification requests continues to significantly increase each and every year. As a part of this increase, however, is an increase in the number of requests which, shall we say, appear a bit dubious. Make no mistake, professional apartment management and leasing offices have no interest in the personal medical history of our residents and applicants. We welcome disabled residents (and applicants) to our communities and we will engage in the interactive process with you to meet legitimate needs. We do, however, need to ensure the Fair Housing Act (and similar state, city, and county laws) are followed and applied as evenly as possible across the board.
Two reasonable accommodation requests came across my desk this week. One from California and one from Minnesota. One was for an emotional support animal (the request was to waive pet rent and pet fees). The second was a request for an early lease termination (the request was to waive the early termination fees otherwise in the apartment lease). Both were verified by a physician. All good, right? Why did these requests end up on my desk?
Well, upon review of the medical verifications – neither stated that the resident was disabled. The letters provided that the resident would “benefit” from an animal or a different home. That verification, standing alone, is not sufficient as the whole point of the reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification process is to ensure our residents who are “disabled” (as the word is defined under federal law) enjoy the full benefits of their housing. Neither resident has a disability that is otherwise obvious. In such a circumstance, while management could just accept the verification, we are absolutely within our rights to seek supplemental confirmation that the resident is actually disabled.
If a request is legitimate, I suspect each leasing office will get a second verification confirming a disability. Which would be great and we can then approve it. However, it is also possible that we do not hear from either resident on these points again. Who loses here? Those Americans with legitimate disabilities as now more people are going to question if their housing-related needs are real.
Just A Thought.