Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) announced that it settled a disability and retaliation Fair Housing Act (FHA) case for over $23,000 filed by two residents against housing providers in California. The residents claimed management refused to install grab bars in their shower as well as that management retaliated against the residents for making the reasonable modification request.

The case started when a couple with disabilities filed a complaint alleging that management of their housing community refused to install grab bars in their bathroom. In addition to failing to install the grab bars, the residents were issued a notice claiming they created a noise disturbance. Although management denied the allegations, the housing providers agreed to settle the complaint. Included in the terms of the agreement are that the housing providers will pay just under $20,000 to the residents in addition to over $3,500 in legal fees. Along with fair housing and reasonable accommodation training, as a part of the settlement, management agreed to notify all residents at the property that the housing providers will install grab bars in bathrooms at no cost to the residents.

While HUD did not provide many details related to the facts, in my experience, a request for grab bars – particularly when it comes from an elderly and/or disabled resident – is typically not one that makes it to my desk. Now, the property involved in this case receives federal financial assistance, which means that the cost of the reasonable modification sought here (grab bars) is the responsibility of the owner/management company. In the scope of costs for reasonable modifications, grab bars are typically minor. Now, I know there is another side to the story concerning the alleged retaliation – but it is a bad look for the leasing office to make up a noise complaint against residents because they submitted a reasonable modification (or reasonable accommodation) request. An expensive lesson here.

Just A Thought.