What is ‘Reasonable Accommodation’?

A landlord cannot discriminate because of a disability. The landlord must make reasonable accommodations for his tenant.

An apartment falls under the requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act does not require that a tenant’s request for a reasonable accommodation be made in a particular manner or at a particular time. The tenant needs to request an accommodation that represents a connection between the request and something that the landlord can do. A violation of the FHA occurs when a disabled resident is denied a reasonable accommodation. A tenant may request an accommodation before trial, at trial or up until she is actually evicted.

The landlord is required to engage in an interactive process if he seeks more information regarding the tenant’s disability. “If a landlord is skeptical of a tenant’s alleged disability or the landlord’s ability to provide an accommodation, it is incumbent upon the landlord to request documentation or open a dialogue. This obligation to open a dialogue with a party requesting a reasonable accommodation is part of an interactive process in which each party seeks and shares information.” (Auburn Woods I Homeowners Assn. v. Fair Employment and Housing Commission (2004) 121 Cal.App.4th 1578, 1599.) If the landlord doubts the tenant’s disability, he can ask the tenant for more information. The landlord simply cannot deny a tenant’s request for reasonable accommodation. If he does, he could be found to have violated the Fair Housing Act.

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

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