Three properties I represent (two on the west coast and one on the east coast) are currently involved with residents who separately have submitted reasonable accommodation requests to their respective leasing offices. All good as professional apartment management has the obligation under the law the review, evaluate, and respond to each of them.
The three requests came from residents with different claimed disabilities (none of which were obvious or otherwise known), but they have the same request: that management make a financial accommodation because of a disability. The typical reasonable accommodation, of course, involves a change in a rule or a policy designed to ensure a disabled resident is still able to enjoy the full benefits of his or her housing. The three submissions ask that management: not raise rent, accept less for rent, and to cease eviction proceedings from a resident who is behind on her rent but does not wish to leave.
Setting aside the facts that none of the three requests (again for claimed disabilities which were not obvious and were not known to the leasing office) were medically verified, I have legitimate questions about each because of the financial nature of the requested remedy. Now, while I understand (and agree) that the law presumes there may be a small financial cost associated with granting a request, I am unaware of guidance mandating that management reduce agreed upon rent as an accommodation. For example, if a resident on the third floor of a building without an elevator suffers a mobility impairment, it could well be appropriate to let the resident out of his or her lease early as an accommodation, without charging any otherwise due early termination fees. That is a cost to management. Again, the point of the law is to help disabled residents obtain the full benefit of their housing— not to get a benefit not available to anyone else.
To phrase it another way, every resident (disabled and non-disabled alike) would benefit from a reduction in rent, not paying rent, or not getting evicted for failing to pay rent. What I fear we are now seeing is residents (with or without counsel) attempting to use the reasonable accommodation process to avoid their financial obligations because of a claimed disability.
In my experience, financial accommodations like those sought here are not part of our federal Fair Housing Act.
Just A Thought.