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

21 comments

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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.

  • I live in Clovis Calif. I suffered a c4 fracture 3yrs ago. my disability was evident too all as I signed my lease.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.

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