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«FIRST EDITION Fair Housing Handbook: Reasonable Accommodations & Modifications FIRST EDITION Fair Housing Handbook: Reasonable Accommodations & ...»

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FIRST EDITION

Fair Housing Handbook:

Reasonable Accommodations & Modifications

FIRST EDITION

Fair Housing Handbook:

Reasonable Accommodations & Modifications

 2008 Disability Rights Oregon

610 SW Broadway, Suite 200, Portland OR 97205

Voice: 503-243-2081 or 1-800-452-1694

Fax: 503-243-1738

E-mail: welcome@droregon.org Website: www.droregon.org Written by McKenna Lebens, Communications Specialist Kathy Wilde, Attorney Disability Rights Oregon is tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions are tax-deductible and will help us provide services to Oregonians with disabilities.

Portions of this Handbook may be reproduced without permission of Disability Rights Oregon, provided that the source is appropriately credited.

NOTICE: This Handbook contains general information about legal issues and legal rights; however, it is not a substitute for legal advice. For specific information about fair housing law, contact Disability Rights Oregon or your attorney.

Purpose of this Handbook The purpose of this Handbook is to provide general information to housing providers, applicants and tenants about the rights and protections that individuals with disabilities have under the law to ask for reasonable accommodations or reasonable modifications in residential housing.

These rights come from the federal Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-19) and Oregon state statutes (ORS Chapter 659a). These laws cover any type of

residential dwelling, including but not limited to:

 Publicly and privately owned rental units  Dwellings governed by homeowners or condominium associations  Retirement centers We use the term rental unit throughout, but the same principles apply to any other type of covered residential housing.

This Handbook is not a substitute for legal advice. Federal and state law can change at any time. Contact Disability Rights Oregon or consult with an attorney in your community if you require further information.

iii Table of Contents Purpose of this Handbook

What is the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA)?

What is housing discrimination?

How is disability defined according to fair housing law?

What is a reasonable accommodation?

What is a reasonable modification?

Who decides what is reasonable?

If I need a reasonable accommodation or modification, what should I do?..... 4 What is the interactive process?

Is there a limit to the number of reasonable accommodation or modification requests I can make?

If I use a wheelchair, do I have to pay a higher security deposit?

Can a housing provider refuse to rent to an individual with a mental disability?

Who pays for reasonable accommodations or modifications?

Can a housing provider require that a modified unit be restored to its previous condition?

Are there rules about disabled parking?

What is an assistance animal according to fair housing law?

What are some examples of assistance animals?

Does an assistance animal need to be certified?

If I have an assistance animal, do I have to pay a pet deposit or any other additional fee?

Is there a limit to the number of assistance animals I can have?

Checklist for Disability Verification Letters

Model Letter #1: Recommendation for an assistance animal from a service provider/professional

Model Letter #2: Reasonable accommodation request for an assistance animal

Model Letter #3: Reasonable accommodation request for a caregiver.......... 15 Model Letter #4: Reasonable accommodation request for modification of admissions policy re: poor credit history

Model Letter #5: Reasonable accommodation request for modification of admissions policy re: references

Model Letter #6: Reasonable accommodation request for modification to admissions policy re: criminal history

Model Letter #7: Reasonable accommodation request for time to seek and retain proper medical treatment

Model Letter #8: Reasonable accommodation request for additional time to find another apartment and move out after receiving eviction notice. 20 Model Letter #9: Reasonable accommodation request for a designated parking space

Model Letter #10: Reasonable modification request for private housing.......... 22 Model Letter #11: Reasonable modification request for federally-funded housing (other than a single Section 8 unit)

Resources

What is the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA)?

The federal Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-19) prohibits discrimination in housing practices on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability.

Though the FHA uses the term handicap, we use the term disability, which has the identical legal meaning.

What is housing discrimination?

Discrimination is treating an individual or a group of people differently than other people under the same or similar circumstances, or denying an individual or a group of people benefits or privileges provided to other people.

The FHA prohibits housing providers from discriminating against people because of their disabilities in numerous ways.





–  –  –

Housing providers cannot refuse to make reasonable accommodations that are necessary for an individual with a disability to have an equal opportunity to apply for or use and enjoy a rental unit, even if that means treating the individual with a disability differently. This covers all common areas, and any other included services and amenities.

For example, allowing a tenant’s caregiver to access the laundry facility to do laundry on the tenant’s behalf is a reasonable accommodation.

1 Housing providers must allow a tenant with a disability to make reasonable modifications to the structure of a rental unit or common areas. Sometimes, housing providers have to make the changes.

Either way, the tenant has to have full use and enjoyment of the unit and other included services or amenities of the property.

How is disability defined according to fair housing law?

Disability is defined under state and federal fair housing law as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits an individual in one or more major life activities.

 Seeing

–  –  –

Individuals whose disability is the result of current illegal drug use are not protected, but individuals with a history of illegal drug use who are no longer using drugs are protected. Fair housing law prohibits discrimination against people solely because of impairments related to alcoholism.

2 What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a request to make an accommodation or change in rules, policies, practices, or procedures to allow an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a unit.

For example, waiving a no pets policy for an individual with a disability who requires an assistance animal because of their disability is a reasonable accommodation. See What is an assistance animal according to fair housing law?, p. 8.

Federal and state fair housing laws give both tenants and applicants who have disabilities the right to request reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or procedures from

housing providers if the changes make it possible for them to:

 Complete an application  Qualify for tenancy  Have full use and enjoyment of the unit  Comply with rental or lease agreements These protections cover any type of residential dwelling, including publicly and privately owned rental units, dwellings governed by homeowners or condominium associations, and retirement centers.

What is a reasonable modification?

A reasonable modification is a change to the physical structure of a unit.

For example, installing a ramp for an individual who uses a wheelchair or grab bars in bathroom are reasonable modifications.

Federal and state fair housing laws give both tenants and applicants who have disabilities the right to request permission to make, or request the landlord to provide, reasonable modifications to the structure of the rental unit or the common areas.

–  –  –

If it is a housing authority project-based Section 8 property or projectbased Section 8 federally-funded housing, the landlord has to pay for the modification.

Who decides what is reasonable?

All accommodations and modifications have to be decided on a case-by-case basis, because determining what is reasonable depends on many factors.

In fair housing law, “reasonable” has been defined by the courts as

an accommodation or modification that does not:

1. Cause an undue financial or administrative burden for the housing provider

2. Fundamentally alter the nature of the housing being offered If I need a reasonable accommodation or modification, what should I do?

Make your request as soon as you find a need for an accommodation or modification.

A housing provider is only required to make an accommodation if they’ve been notified of your need. Individuals with disabilities are entitled to ask for reasonable accommodations at any time during the housing application process or during a tenancy, up to and including eviction proceedings.

You don’t have to use the words “reasonable accommodation” or “reasonable modification,” but you do have to indicate that a change or exception to a rule, policy, practice, or procedure or a structural modification would help you more effectively use and enjoy your unit. See Model Letters #1-11, pp. 13-23.

Put all your requests in writing and ask for written responses, so that you have documentation in case there is a dispute later on in the process.

4 Housing providers can ask you to provide documentation from a professional, a statement that you as an applicant or tenant have a disability and that your disability results in one or more functional limitations. This is called a disability verification letter. See the Checklist for Disability Verification Letters, pp. 11-12.

–  –  –

The letter needs to state that the requested accommodation or modification is necessary because of your disability, and that it will allow you to enjoy the unit and any amenities or services included with the rental equally to other tenants, as well as to abide by the rules. In other words, a housing provider can seek information about how your requested accommodation or modification relates to your functional limitations and how the accommodation or modification will allow you to have equal access to the housing.

A housing provider cannot inquire into the nature or extent of your disability, or require you as an applicant or tenant to release your medical records.

Housing providers can require that the verification come from a qualified professional, but they cannot require that it be a medical doctor. Include a disability verification letter with your written reasonable accommodation or modification request even if you are not asked for one. You can have any professional familiar with you and your disability-related needs write the letter.

–  –  –

5 What is the interactive process?

Whether you are an applicant or a tenant, you and your housing provider should work together, engaging in what is called the interactive process. This means starting a dialogue and negotiating to come up with a solution that meets both your needs and the needs of your housing provider.

As the person with the disability, you are usually the best source of information on how to adapt the environment through accommodations or modifications that address your functional limitations.

Your housing provider is entitled to propose different accommodations or modifications they believe are less costly or administratively burdensome and equally effective in removing the barriers to your tenancy.

Is there a limit to the number of reasonable accommodation or modification requests I can make?

No. Under fair housing law, there is no limit to the number of reasonable accommodations or modifications you can request as an individual with a disability.

A housing provider has to consider each request on its own merits and agree to the request, unless the proposed reasonable accommodation or modification meets certain criteria.

–  –  –

If you are a wheelchair user and you cause damage to your unit beyond regular wear and tear, regardless of whether the damage is the result of the wheelchair, you will probably have to cover the damage out of the standard security deposit charged to everyone.

Can a housing provider refuse to rent to an individual with a mental disability?

No. It is unlawful discrimination for a housing provider to refuse to rent to a person because of his or her disability, mental or physical, as long as they are eligible.

–  –  –

Can a housing provider require that a modified unit be restored to its previous condition?

Housing providers may ask that your modified unit be restored to its previous condition if the modifications make the unit less marketable.

–  –  –

For example, a landlord may require that bathroom grab bars be removed, but may not require that invisible extra supports put inside the walls to hold the grab bars also be removed. Doorways that have been widened do not need to be narrowed. You are not required to return a common area to its previous condition.

Are there rules about disabled parking?

Parking is an amenity. Housing providers are required to provide accessible parking for tenants who need it, and should have policies regarding approval for disabled parking. Make a reasonable accommodation request regarding parking just as you would for any other accommodation.

What is an assistance animal according to fair housing law?



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