Housing discrimination due to disability is forbidden under the Fair Housing Act, rental managers and owners are legally obligated to give prospective and current tenants with a disability the same treatment as other applicants and residents.
The law also mandates that reasonable exceptions to policies and operations be made for those with disabilities and that tenants be permitted to make reasonable access-related modifications to their own units and common areas. The law does not require that landlords pay for these changes, however. States may have their own laws concerning tenants with disabilities, such as California’s, which requires that tenants be permitted to make reasonable modifications that allow them to “fully enjoy the premises.”
Reasonable accommodations, modifications and exceptions
While others may exist, the following are common exceptions concerning disabled tenants:
♦ Residents with a service animal are legally exempt from a landlord’s “no pets” policy. Depending on the jurisdiction, legal protection might extend only to trained service animals or to untrained companions. Landlords and managers can ask for proof of disability and the need for an animal from the renter’s physician.
♦ Changes to doorknobs, faucets and other parts of the unit are likely protected. However, landlords may have legal standing to require tenants to restore changes when they move out.
♦ If a disabled individual requests special parking to accommodate his or her disability, it is likely discrimination to refuse that request.
As always, one key to avoiding discrimination is to apply policies consistently and have them in writing. While disabled tenants are protected against discrimination, they do not have special privileges or rights beyond other tenants outside of those needs. Because legal rulings and laws may change and state and local laws may vary, it is always wise to consult a legal professional.