What is a Reasonable Accommodation?
A “reasonable accommodation” is a change in a housing provider’s rules, policies, practices, or services when the change is needed to give people with disabilities equal opportunities to use and enjoy their housing. When requested accommodations are reasonable, housing providers are required by law to make the accommodations.
This is not as simple as it appears. The law does not define what is reasonable and what is not. All requests must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and there are often disagreements about what is reasonable and what is unreasonable.
Reasonable Accommodations Must…
- Be made by or on behalf of a person with disabilities. This person can be a housing seeker, property owner in a condominium development, or rental housing tenant. It can also include household members and, in some cases, frequent visitors to the home.
- Be requested. A housing provider is not required to offer a reasonable accommodation that has not been requested.
- Be connected to the person’s disability. Housing providers are not required to do everything a person wants just because the person has a disability. Fair housing laws only require housing providers to make accommodations when there is a connection, or “nexus,” between the requested accommodation and the person’s disability.
- Be supported by documentation from a health provider or other person who can establish that the person has a disability and explain the nexus between the disability and the accommodation request—unless the disability is apparent to the housing provider.
- Be “reasonable.” A housing provider does not have to grant an unreasonable request. Courts have decided that a request is not reasonable if: (1) the request would create an undue administrative and financial burden on the housing provider; (2) the request would fundamentally change the housing provider’s business; or (3) the person poses a “direct threat” to others or granting the request would result in substantial property damages, unless this risk can be significantly reduced by the accommodation.
- Be taken seriously. If a housing provider believes a request is not reasonable or would like to suggest a different way to accommodate a request, the housing provider is required to engage in an “interactive process” with the person to explore alternatives or seek additional information. Unreasonably delaying or denying a reasonable accommodation request without this interactive process may be illegal.
How to Request a Reasonable Accommodation
Fair housing laws do not require people with disabilities to use specific forms or the words “reasonable accommodation” in making their request. However, the GBLA Fair Housing Law Project recommends making reasonable accommodation requests in writing so the request is properly documented. We also recommend getting health provider documentation, in advance, to establishes that a person has a disability and explain the nexus between the disability and the requested accommodation.
The GBLA Fair Housing Law Project can help in getting the right documentation from your health care provider and making a clear, well supported reasonable accommodation request to your housing provider. We can also help negotiate with the housing provider on your behalf.