Under the Fair Housing Act, a person with a disability may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation or modification. A reasonable modification is a structural change made to the premises whereas a reasonable accommodation is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service. A person with a disability may need either a reasonable accommodation or a reasonable modification, or both, in order to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces.
An accommodation or modification is reasonable if:
- It is related to the resident’s disability needs;
- Is not an undue administrative and financial burden for the housing provider;
- Does not fundamentally alter the nature of the provider’s operations.
Undue Burden: The request must not impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider. The determination of undue financial and administrative burden must be made on a case-by-case basis involving various factors, such as the cost of the requested accommodation, the financial resources of the provider, the benefits that the accommodation would provide to the requester, and the availability of alternative accommodations that would effectively meet the requester’s disability-related needs.
Example: An applicant who uses a walker prefers a third-story rental in an older walk-up building – the housing provider does not have to install an elevator if such a modification is cost-prohibitive.
Fundamental Alteration: The requested accommodation or modification must not require the housing provider to make a fundamental alteration in the essential nature of the provider’s operations.
Example: A resident with a disability cannot do his own housekeeping and the housing provider does not supply housekeeping for residents. A request for such services is not reasonable.
Refusing a Request: When a housing provider refuses a requested accommodation because it is not reasonable, the provider should discuss with the requester whether an alternative accommodation would effectively address the person’s disability-related needs. If an alternative accommodation would effectively meet the person’s needs and is reasonable, the provider must grant it.
A failure to reach an agreement on an accommodation request is in effect a decision by the housing provider not to grant the requested accommodation. Someone who was denied an accommodation may file a fair housing complaint to challenge that decision.
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