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.

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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!
    I appreciate your work and your trying to give me better articles. Excellent explanation all point like an expert writer.Amazing, helpful information a lot of thanks. Great collection of articles to maintain the wheelchair.I read full post very carefully that gives me extra energy to survive my disabled life as a new human .I read full post very carefully that gives me extra energy to survive my disabled life as a new human .Please post such an awesome post day by day.

  • 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.

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