A Brandon Social Security lawyer can explain that federal and state laws exist to protect disabled renters from discrimination. These laws prevent landlords from requesting medical records or asking whether an applicant has a disability or illness as a condition of moving into the unit. Additionally, these laws require landlords to provide certain accommodations for renters with disabilities at their own expense.
Definition of Disability
According to the Fair Housing Act and the Fair Housing Amendments Act, landlords may not discriminate against people who:
- have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits a major life activity
- have a history of a disability; or
- be regarded as having a disability
Disabilities include mobility, visual and hearing impairments. Disabilities also include mental illness, HIV, AIDS and mental retardation. In the case of mental or emotional impairments, the landlord must base his or her decision on the applicant’s financial stability and tenant history. He or she can only consider a mental impairment if he or she can point to specific instances of past behavior that would make the applicant a risk to others.
Prohibition on Discriminatory Questions
An attorney from a Brandon disability law firm can explain that landlords cannot ask applicants about a disability or illness. Likewise, they cannot ask to see medical records. If a disability is apparent, they cannot ask about the extent of the disability. This is because the landlord legally cannot make decisions about the manner in which the applicant would live in a way that he or she would not be able to for a non-disabled applicant.
Right to Accommodations by the Landlord
A Brandon Social Security lawyer can explain the extent of a landlord’s duty to accommodate a tenant. According to federal law, landlords must accommodate the needs of disabled tenants at their own expense when such accommodations are reasonable. This includes modifying rules, procedures or services so that a disabled tenant has equal access to them. However, an attorney from a Brandon disability law firm can explain that this duty does not mean that the landlord must accommodate every request that the tenant makes. For example, if an accommodation would seriously inhibit the landlord’s ability to run the business or that would have a significant economic impact on the business, the landlord may not be required to take it. Also, the landlord does not have to provide the accommodation in a way that mirrors the tenant’s request. For example, a tenant with a broken leg may request that an elevator be installed so that he or she can more easily access the unit. A landlord may instead offer a ground-floor unit. Another accommodation for individuals with disabilities is to establish designated handicapped parking.
Right to Make Modifications
Another important right provided to disabled tenants is the right to make a modification at the tenant’s own expense. If such a modification is necessary for the tenant to reside comfortably and safely in the unit, the landlord is usually required to agree to this modification so long as the modification would not make the unit unacceptable to the next tenant who moves into the unit or if the tenant agrees to revert the property back to the previous condition before the modification at his or her own expense. Any modifications requested by the tenant must be reasonable. Additionally, the tenant must receive prior approval before making the modification. Additionally, the landlord has certain rights, such as the right to ask for a description of the proposal, proof that the work performed will be of a workman-like manner and evidence that the tenant has secured the necessary building permits. The landlord can also require the tenant to contribute into an interest-bearing escrow account if the modification will require future restoration.
Examples of Modifications
Some examples of modifications that a disabled tenant may request include:
- Installing a ramp so that a tenant in a wheelchair can access a raised room in the unit
- Modifying kitchen appliances so that they can be used by a tenant with a visual or hearing impairment
- Lowering countertops for a tenant in a wheelchair
- Installing door handles for a tenant who has problems with his or her hands
Proof of Need for Accommodation or Modification
Before a request for an accommodation or modification is granted, a landlord can request that a tenant’s request will address his or her needs. One of the easiest ways that a tenant can submit proof to the landlord is by having his or her treating doctor or therapist write a letter that details the request and that it will meet the tenant’s needs. The letter does not have to identify the particular disability.
For more information about the legal rights of disabled renters, contact Brandon Social Security lawyer Garry W. Miracle, Esq. to schedule a confidential consultation.