If you're living with a disability, it's essential to understand the law before renting an apartment or house. Disabled people have a wide range of significant protections that covers them when renting a living space. The unfortunate part is that most people are not even aware of these rights.
For instance, under Federal Law, people living with disabilities have the right to seek tenancy in any rental unit of their liking despite their impairment. After moving in, the landlord should allow you to make necessary modifications to the living unit at your expense. Also, as you seek tenancy, landlords are not allowed to ask for your medical records or inquire if you have any disability.
In fact, landlords who refuse to give you tenancy due to your disability violate the law based on discriminatory housing. There are many more laws protecting people with disabilities; this is just the tip of the iceberg. This article will, however, specifically go in-depth about the renter's rights for home modifications.
What is Reasonable Home Modification?
Reasonable home modifications are physical changes that a renter may need to make to their surroundings to accommodate their disability. The law requires landlords to allow people with disabilities to make reasonable modifications to their living space. However, the renters must cater for the modifications unless the person with disability lives in housing subsidized by the Federal Government.
When it's finally time for you to move out, the landlord might ask you to restore the house or apartment to the original state. That applies if the modifications would hinder the ability to rent out the unit again. According to The Americans with Disabilities Act, it would be unlawful for the landlord to deny reasonable accommodation when these modifications are necessary to afford persons with disabilities equal opportunity to utilize and enjoy their living space.
What are Some Examples of the Reasonable Home Modifications?
Installation of ramps
Lowering of countertops
Installation of lifts
Widening of the doorways
Installation of grab bars in the bathroom
Installation of accessible door handles
Installation of doorbells and fire alarms with visual alerts
These are just a few reasonable home modifications a landlord should allow in your rented property. Keep in mind that the landlord may request that changes are done by a professional and they conform to the standard of the building. But the landlord is not allowed to subject the tenant to use a specific contractor or upgrade amenities during the house modification.
How to Request for Reasonable Home Modification?
While persons with disabilities are allowed under the law to get reasonable modifications, landlords are not mandated to grant the modification request until you issue a request. The good thing is that you can ask for the modification requests whenever you like.
That applicable even if you’ve been living in the house for a while or you might be in danger of being evicted. The reasonable home modification request can sometimes be used to defend your eviction notice.
What do I mean? Let's a scenario where you risk eviction for having a dog in your house despite the lease agreement stating that no pets are allowed. In such a case, if you live with disabilities and need the dog for emotional support or as a service dog, you cannot be evicted for having the dog.
It may not be necessary, but it's good to request a reasonable modification in writing and have a copy. In the request, elaborate on how the modification you request will be beneficial to your disability.
What is the Landlord Allowed to Ask About Your Disability?
Once you request modification in your house, the landlord can ask for information while evaluating your request. In a scenario where your disability or need for modification is obvious or known by the landlord, you are not required to provide further information. An obvious disability need for modification would be a person with limited motor function requesting accessible parking near their living unit.
Some of the documents you can provide include:
A receipt of your disability benefits
Your disability confirmation from the FED/local government
A housing voucher eligibility for your disability
A letter from a healthcare practitioner confirming your disability
Although your landlord may ask for additional information, they have no right to know your exact diagnosis. Also, once you provide your landlord with the necessary documents, they must consider your request and give you a response as soon as possible. If the landlord takes too much time to respond to your reasonable modification request, that may be considered as him denying the request.
What Documents is the Landlord Not Supposed to Request for?
Landlords should strictly not inquire for specific diagnosis of your disability or detailed information about the tenant’s disability. Your landlord has no form of entitlement towards your private medical records.
In fact, your landlord has no right to insist that you provide the documents in a specific form. Letters the doctor and the tenant should be enough. If you'd like to fill out the landlord's preferred forms, you can go ahead, but that's not necessary.
Can a Request for Reasonable Home Modification be Denied?
The law requires landlords to grant your reasonable modification requests. If your landlord denies your request that can be termed discrimination. However, there are a few exceptional situations where the landlord can deny the request. That includes:
If the landlord grants the request may result in an administrative or financial burden
If the landlord grants the request may result in significant alterations to the landlord's operations
In most cases, providing reasonable home modifications will financially impact the landlord's part, and that's okay. The problem comes in when the financial burden feels too much on the landlord's side. In such cases, the landlord can deny the reasonable modification request. But if the landlord cannot grant a reasonable home modification, he should assist you to find a suitable alternative which matches up the modification request.