I wanted to offer up two related COVID-19 fair housing scenarios I have seen recently in my discussions with apartment management clients.
As written here (and elsewhere) regularly, our Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires management to make what is known as a “reasonable accommodation” in our rules, policies or practices as needed to permit an individual with a disability to fully use and get the benefit of his/her housing. One such accommodation is a request to terminate a lease early (and without penalty) because of a disability. In a pre-pandemic world, that request came up from time to time. But in today’s world – what happens when a resident requests to break his lease early because he contracted COVID-19 and goes to the hospital for an extended period of time? And the related question is what happens if someone who has lost her job because of the pandemic requests to break her lease early because of unfortunate economic circumstances?
While each circumstance requires an individual analysis, if a resident contracts the virus and goes to the hospital for an extended period of time, it is likely he would be considered disabled and granting the early termination request (without penalty) could be an appropriate reasonable accommodation. On the other hand, for your resident who lost her job, she is not disabled – and, as such, is not eligible for a reasonable accommodation under the FHA. To be sure, I have referred to these situations as a request for a compassionate early lease termination because of the pandemic. And there are circumstances in which I have recommended this type of request be approved.
A couple of issues that I had never thought about before March.
Just A Thought.