Landlord Responsibilities to Tenants with Disabilities

The best property managers know how to provide exemplary service to all tenants, regardless of special circumstances. With senior housing on the rise, and an aging Baby Boomer population turning to rentals, property managers should be well-versed in the laws regarding housing for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became the law of the land in 1990. The ADA is an extensive piece of legislation the “prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public”. Housing policies are covered under the ADA, so attentive landlords should be aware of their legal responsibilities towards tenants with disabilities.

Who is considered disabled?

Under the ADA, landlords are prohibited from inquiring about the exact nature of a person’s disability even if the disability is highly visible, for example if the prospective tenant uses a wheelchair. However the ADA addresses what is legally considered a disability in clear, concise language. To be covered under the ADA, “a person must have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities”. A partial list of protected disabilities include:

  • Mobility impairments
  • Hearing impairments
  • Visual impairments
  • Chronic alcoholism (if it is being addressed through a recovery program)
  • Mental illness
  • HIV, AIDS, and AIDS-Related Complex
  • Mental retardation
Structural modifications are often required to make a dwelling functional for a person with a disability.
Structural modifications are often required to make a dwelling functional for a person with a disability.

Can I ask for proof of a disability?

Landlords may not inquire about the nature of or ask for proof of disability during the rental application process. However, if the tenant makes a request for accommodation after the lease is signed, the landlord may ask for proof that the request will make the unit more functional for the tenant.

What are reasonable accommodations?

The ADA requires that landlords make “reasonable accommodations” for renters with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, or services that enable a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy their home and any common spaces. A housing provider is required by law to accommodate a person with a disability, as long as the request doesn’t create an undue financial burden. Common accommodations include installing access ramps, providing a reserved parking spot at the front of a building, or allowing service animals in a unit where pets are not usually welcome.

What is a reasonable modification?

A reasonable modification is a structural modification to a unit or public spaces that is made to allow persons with disabilities the full enjoyment of the housing and related facilities. Modifications require prior approval from the landlord, and must be constructed by a licensed contractor. Common modifications include widening doorways, installing a grab bar in a bathroom, or installing a ramp into a threshold. It is reasonable and legal to ask that a unit be restored to original condition after the tenant leaves.


Who pays for accommodations and modifications?

Landlords are responsible for paying for accommodations, though many common ones are free or low cost (providing larger print documents, designated a parking spot). Tenants are usually responsible for paying for structural modifications, unless the dwelling is listed as a federally assisted housing structure.

Where can I learn more about providing housing to people with disabilities?

For more information about landlord responsibilities when renting to tenants with disabilities, please see the US Department of Housing and Urban Development website.


About the author

Elizabeth Hayes


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  • That’s a great idea, I inspire from here. It will be helpful for responsibilities tenants. It has been something new ideas. You should add more info like this. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for sharing. I did not realize chronic alcoholism is considered to be a disability. I also have a very miled case of Cerebral Palsy, and having handles to hold on to in the shower has definitely makes things a lot easier.

  • Is there a form that we have to provide when requesting proof for the more functional accommodation? Can we directly fax it to the doctors office or provide it to the resident themselves?

  • I would love to have rails installed at the step coming into thevapartthe complex. I have fallen several times. They are saying because I am the only one requesting rails to be installed they want be to pay for them it’s not inly for me but 3 others that live in the building could use the rails for support. Help.

  • I am disabled from a cracked spine with nerve damage. We recently mmoved and are renting and the toilet is too low to the floor. My portable toilet will not fit. We have moved my portable into the bedroom not being used. What are my rights as a tenant?

  • What a writer you are!
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  • I have a neighbor with disabilities here in Tampa, Cavalier Estate and I’ve heard the owner has a concern with my neighbor, and as long as I can see their house is good for him, it doesn’t have a stair for him to climb and it has a house ramp for his wheelchair.

  • You’ve written that landlords are financially responsible for accommodations while tenants are financially responsible for modifications, yet you’ve included ramps under both categories. Which is it? Does my landlord cover the cost of my ramp or do I?

  • I would like to know I am disabled and one of the problems I have is I get Daily Migraine Headaches, well I live in an apartment and for over a year everything was fine, then they moved 2 young kids above me who RUN so hard and jump so much that it rattles and shakes inside my apartment, I have had things come off my shelves and when they run in the kitchen it shakes the metal Oven hood so it makes a loud noise, all of which hurts me more, so I have to take more medication then I should and more, I have contacted the people above me 4 times and the office 6 times yet it seems they either do not tell them to stop or they do and they do not. Last time the office manager told me “Well you do live in a family complex so there will be noise.” I said there is a difference, if I open the door and hear kids I can not complain about,…BUT if those same kids keep throwing a ball at my front door THEN I can complain. Is there any advise I can use to help me, since I am disabled I can not afford to more, I just want the noise to get less or even stop.

  • I live in Clovis Calif. I suffered a c4 fracture 3yrs ago. my disability was evident too all as I signed my lease was for a 3rd story ‘unit ‘, aquired in a take my lease. I had no idea of my ada rights. I didn’t want any accommodations made, except the rail on stairs was unmounted. I was pleased with the results.
    my 1st question about my rights to reasonable accommodations comes about 2yrs from the time I adopted my cat. after making many complaints about the neighbors unleashed dogs chasing my ESA cat. I was told that my cat was to be on a leash. prop. mgr replied equal housing. laws say no.
    I replied in email, as to my ada rights to reasonable accommodations ? NO.
    The more I research, the more I feel that my request to have the bed, I was renting for mgmt, removed as it was severely inappropriate for my injury,AND I was getting a new bed. I was definitely denied reasonable accommodations for returning bed and to have it written to my addendum.
    finally, I do have other disabilities. PTSD and epilepsy to be exact. I recieved a notice to perform or quit with “specific facts” in violation aggressive behavior on multiple occasions and list 1 specific breach of taking a picture of staff w/o permission. false, all of it. I am taking this as harrassment and assure you, whoever YOU are, that this hasn’t been the first time. goes all way to corporate.

  • Can a landlord kick a disabled woman still in need of healing and surgery be kicked out wiwi her veteran husband 2hos health is not good with no official notices

  • Is there anyone who responds to these questions? I to have a very low toilet and due to my illness needed to be a regular height and Elon gated. Is the landlord responsible for that? I also have a tub that is too high, approximately 6 inches higher than normal. Is it their responsibility to pay to have these two things changed? Can someone please direct me to where I can find the answer, because I don’t trust my management company. Thank you

  • I’m in a senior living home the elevators been out for three weeks I’m on the third floor there’s many handicapped that we can’t get down there and they keep saying they can’t find the part even the people with the dogs we can’t take him down

  • My aunt rents an apartment in Los Angeles California and not only have they revoked her parking space because she didn’t have a car when she CHANGED apartments, they refused to allow her a spot in the lot nor is there any sort of ADA parking in the lot, the managers of the building painted over them? She is disabled and been issued a placard for several years. I’ve recently learned she has had to walk three and four blocks from a parking space in an adjacent neighborhood with her cane taking almost 2 hours to get home because she is disabled! Is there anyway to force them to give her a parking spot ADA compliant until we can get her moved out of this dump?

  • For a reasonable accommodation of a walk in shower, who installs the sgower..a licenced professional or a maintenance man on the community sire?

  • My complex is brand new for 55 up. I’m disabled but they said they have enough parking spots for handicapped per city but they’re where you have to walk from one end all the way to other to get to elevator.
    I told them I was disabled before move in, that the toilet was too low, and is need a grab bar at tub…I’ve had to crawl out and I’ve fallen but to them they see able body because osteroarthitus and other disabilities are invisible. Now new mgr came in and refuses to provide a disabled parking space for me or others here. They said corporate said open parking. I like where I park in front of apt but any further I won’t make it to elevator or to my apt but they just put their hands up literally and said.. Sorry that’s how it is.
    If I push it they may try to evict me for asking for my rights as disabled person who also has bad carpal both hands.
    They take all housing programs to full pay and year waiting list.
    They don’t care..if say anything they get huffy. I’ve got nowhere else to go and no vehicle to live in.
    How do I handle all this BS?
    They also said no one talks to mgr.
    One minute they assigned parking then redid it and now open for all and disabled good luck getting in and out!!!
    I’m not only one upset…
    I know an attorney who’d love to handle this but that’s last resort.
    The disabled people want our spots. The few handicap spots are not enough and they’re too far for walking and for those with walkers plus they’re open for anyone to park.. Even visitors.

  • I live in Wisconsin and I live in a building where the property owner says he doesn’t have to make modifications to the building for physical disabilities. IE…. grab bars. Is that true?

  • Wow!!!!! Some of these issues sound like where I live!!! I’ve been in this complex for 8 years, but in my own apartment for almost 3 years now. There’s not enough space or time here, to write all the things that have happened to me.. it is a federally funded senior/handicap facility, managed by government, owned by—??????? I have had so many illegal things done to me, the most recent—–had 3 managers & 1 maintenance open my door & charged in on me, the CEO proceed to SCREAM at me & put me through the most horrible evil verbal attack I’ve ever had in my life!! I had never met this woman!! The others laughed, told lies & false accusations on me. This went on for about an hour & half——after the office had closed !! Having trouble getting legal help. The whole city, council, county council, lawyers & judges are all involved with owners & we can’t get help! When I was placed in this unit, I was told it was a handicap unit, & SOME of it is. Now they tell me it isn’t & if someone in a wheelchair comes along, I have to get out & let them have it!! They’ve tried to threaten me out, written up false warnings against me. I can’t afford to move!!! 😢 I can’t sleep, had to be put on medications, I’ve been harrassed, told that I will be watched all the time. Can anyone tell me please where I can get legal representation???? I’m not out to sue I just want them off of me & stopped from how people are being treated here. It’s not home, it’s almost a prison camp!!

  • I am renting a house. I requested the landlord to provide an 18″ toilet because I am disabled I have had 13 back and 2 neck surgeries and another surgery on my neck and back coming up next month and he said that I would have to pay for the toilet, it’s very hard for me to get up and down from this low toilet. Can he do this? He has not made improvements he promised and doesn’t follow up with anything I request.

  • What is a reasonable amount of time for the request to be answered? I asked for a handicap parking place 6 months ago to no avail. I keep getting excuses. Can I get out of my lease at this point?

  • I am disabled and have lived in the same apartments for over a year, I have asked to be able to move into a downstairs apartment because when I first moved in there wasn’t a downstairs apartment available and the manager is saying I can’t transfer but then said I can but for a fee of $300 . My deposit wasn’t even that much.

  • I live in an apartment complex that only contracts with dish network my job only contracts thru Cox cable my doctor stated in medical records that I need to work from home my apts don’t want to accommodate me what can I do

  • I live in Orlando at Park Central. I have lived here since 2015. I have Cerebral Palsy and use an electric wheelchair. There is no wheelchair accessible shower , just a tub,and it’s difficult to get to sinks. For the past year, I’ve tried to get a more accessible apartment. Doesn’t seem they have one… I tried to ask the PC community if there were any truly accessible apartments in the complex. Management denied to post the question; so it was never seen. The complex was built in 1994, shouldn’t I be able to shower or clean dishes? What can I do?

  • I have been asking if they could put in grab bars in the shower. They put them outside of the tub and now a bar that screws on the outside of tub which if I start to fall will not help because it is lower than I grab bar would be on the wall. When you start to fall you need to grab something that will help you stay on your feet not something lower that will just let you fall. Yes if we could take a bath it would help you to be able to pull yourself up but
    doesn’t help you from falling. Some apartments have grab bars because they were installed many yrs ago but now they say they cannot install them because of the tile. Funny how they could install them yrs ago. I fall already once and am leary of taking a shower now. I have had foot surgery on both feet, a knee replacement which did not help and back surgery for herniated disc. Falling did not help any of these. I struggled to get up which took me at least 20 minutes. Yes there is a string to pull but when you a naked you really don’t want someone to comin g in to help you up. I am not only worried about myself but for all the other elderly whom most of them are at least 10 yrs older than me and I know there is some in their 90 or close to it. If these people fall in tub they could really get hurt especially if they have fragile bones. Not only that if they fall hard enough and hit there head and can’t get to the pull string for help they could lay there for hours and maybe not even make it. When you reach a certain age your body is more fragile and you have many more health issues I always thought that when you are in a senior living apartment they would have safety bars in the bathroom. They have them but they are on the outside of bathroom on wall which does not help you when you are in the tub. Yes they help you get in and out but while you are in the tub they don’t help because your shower curtain is in the way. I have people who can put one in for me but I am told no we have to have our put them in and they say we can’t do it. Yet I know they can because my son in law does the same as they do. He is maintance at other apartment buildiings and does it all the time and yes they have tire and concrete he has to drill through. Plus most of my family builds and redo their own homes and know how to do it too.. But still they say no and yet their own won’t even try. They just keep putting things up that won’t help if you start to fall. Other than this I feel everything else is up to safety for the seniors but this issue needs to be taken care of in all senior living places and if they don’t know how to do it then why not let someone who does do it. Plus it would not cost them a cent because they would do it for nothing for me and I imagine other seniors have people who would do it for them. Plus we all know that if we ruin something we have to pay to have it fixed. Why am I writing this because I feel this is an issue Hud and all Rederal Housing and senior living should strongly look into before someone gets hurt bad or even killed from a fall and hitting their head where they can bleed to death.

  • If a tenant is disabled enough where the person struggle to go to the bank to pay there rent. Is a landlord obligated to provide autopay options or debit card pay options. That way the disabled can make there rental payment. In other words, to accommodate the disable person lack of mobility.

  • I have a handicap plackard. I have a bad back and cops. I asked the landlord last year to please change my parking spot closer to the building entrance. I’ve called and sent letters. No response. Eventually I was told my spot was only for my apartment and could not be changed. I have such a hard time. I even parked on the main rd for a short time. I was sideswiped by a hit and run. Who can I get help from?
    Maureen Neve

  • I am disabled and before I ever moved in asked if I could have the carpet replaced with hard flooring because I have a tendency to trip on carpet. The manager at the time said that they would replace the flooring with a doctors note at no charge. New management came and I asked that they change the flooring and they refused. The carpet is also riddled with bugs That the management is not taken care of because they insist I move the furniture and I am I’m capable to do so and have no help to get it done. I recently fell tripping on the carpet and injured my back and would like to know if the apartment management is responsible and how can I get them to get the box treated.

  • My landlord just informed me I have to pay for my ADA compliant toilet. I was under the impression The owners of the apartment building were to pay for it, am I wrong & Does this mean I get to take them with me when I leave?

  • I want to move to a downstairs apt due to my recent disability I cannot manage stairs any longer. Do I have to pay higher rent because the apt is larger? Or can it be lateral and stay the same due to the reason why I need to move? By the way I live in Calif.

  • Is the landlord responsible for installing a handrail for the 4 steps outside the front door to a disabled tenant?

  • I have a son with ptsd and on heavy medication and i have chronic 5th stage kidney disease. The lady has a non live in grand daughter who runs and stmops all the tine she visits

  • Thank you. I’ve been living at a residence with my uncle who is elderly disabled and i myself is disabled. Now we have ramp to walk to parking spot out back. For the past 3 years the very top of ramp exiting house become a 2-3″solid block of ice. No i have a spinal disability where im not supposed to carry something more than 5lbs and no excessive work. Like shoveling dragging heavy trash barrels on trash day. Since the very first snow we got this season and the snow from previous snow past weekend and one supposed to hit on Christmas Eve. And cause he let me stay here im forced to do all these things. I have fallen 2x so far this winter between both snow days. On this ramo cause at night you cannot see ice in dark wood if its black ice. And you don’t notice it until your already sliding and cant grab anything . i landed on my back at like 820p.m. give or take a minute or two. And body slid down ramp and tried stopping myself and tried to grab onto lower railing and knee slammed into support beam halfway down ramp and my left foot twisted under me. And instant pain. My left ft on the inner side by the big toe side is now swollen and bruising already and can’t bent my foot like your wriggling your toes. About a egg sized bruise on shin. And my back in my lumbar region in which hit ground first is where my main problems of my spinal deterioration, spinal stenosis, herniated discs. From L1-S1 is throbbing. Pulled myself in shower to let hot water hit my back area and am using heat pad and cbd pain relief cream. But if i move certain way pain shoots from neck to down my left leg. And my uncle says i cannot say anything cause will kick us out. Is that true if i seek a legal consultation?? And my uncle is threatening to throw me out again if i say something. Mind you my domestic violence therapist can tell you i live with my childhood abuser cause i had no where to go. Cause my anxiety and ptsd makes me unable to be in a crowded shelter. I’ve been on housing for dis abled for disabled buildings. For past 3yrs. When i was told id be in a disabled housing within a yr to a yr and half. We are going on 4 now. And my mother live w my dad in an elderly building. And she tole me she don’t understand why i can’t get in. I have my disability papers from social security. So im at point of wanting to give up. How long am i supposed to wait. There are 7 available units in my mothers building which would me an ideal place cause i can drive my mother to store when i go. Please tell me if i am wrong that i said the land lord needs to do something about that ramp. And he is telling me its my job to maintain the ramp. And from what i read if he has that ramp for my uncle’s disability and my walking disability that i have to use they call them Canadian crutches to stabilize myself. But im supposed to shovel and keep up with salting. After last storm i had to dig out. My car in waist deep snow. Cause the landlords workers made a foot wide path to shimmie through and threw all snow in front of all cars and scooter including my car. So i unfortunately had to get out to pick up my prescriptions i take daily for my back. Can they kick me out for saying i was seeking advice. I mean technically after 30 day aren’t I considered a tenant. Can landlord or my uncle tell me to just get out??

  • Hello I am a disabled person does partially blind and moving into her senior years I live in a building and I live alone now that my daughter has moved out now be that’s my situation do I have to move I need someone to call me 347-693-9292 I’ve been living here for so long and I’m afraid to lose my independence so I’m really emotionally distressed by this I’ll be waiting for your call thank you my name is Wanda

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