Parameters designed to protect individuals with disabilities must be understood by property owners / landlords to avoid discrimination and / or violation of a law.
Top quality property managers know how to provide consistent, fair service to all tenants no matter what their special circumstances might be. As the senior population rises, many choose to rent rather than buy, making it necessary for property managers to be on their toes regarding laws which apply to disabled peopled.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became effective in 1990, prohibiting 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. Attentive landlords must be aware of their legal responsibilities towards tenants with disabilities.
What is considered a disability?
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
What a landlord cannot ask a tenant
Landlords must treat disabled applicants and tenants in the same way as those without a disability: They cannot request medical records, nor guide a tenant to a specific unit.
If there is not an accommodation request, (a request that a rule, policy, practice, or service be changed or modified in some way in order to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling) the Fair Housing Acts prohibit the landlord from asking whether the applicant has a disability or asking about the severity of the impairment.
What a landlord can ask a tenant
A landlord may ask all prospective tenants, including disabled applicants, about whether:
- They can meet tenancy requirements;
- They abuse or are addicted to an illegal controlled substance;
- They qualify for a rental unit available only to people with a disability or a certain type of disability; or
- They qualify for a rental unit that is offered on a priority basis to people with a disability or with a certain type of disability.
What are reasonable accommodations?
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?
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.
Who pays for accommodations and modifications?
Landlords are responsible for paying for accommodations, though many common ones are free or low cost. Tenants are usually responsible for paying for structural modifications, unless the dwelling is listed as a federally assisted housing structure.
For more information about landlord responsibilities when renting to tenants with disabilities, visit the US Department of Housing and Urban Development website.
Cousin James Management has been helping property owners for more than 20 years. We know that after investing in your rental property, the second most important thing is to find quality tenants. Screening tenant applicants to find the most qualified tenant is one of the most important responsibilities Cousin James assumes when we manage your property.
Properly screening tenants will ensure a more reliable, cost-effective investment. We take our job seriously to find quality, long-term tenants who will take responsibility to care for your property from day one. Contact Cousin James Management for more details. We’re here to help!