Reasonable Accommodations/Reasonable Modifications FAIR HOUSING HIGHLIGHT #3

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1 Reasonable Accommodations/Reasonable Modifications FAIR HOUSING HIGHLIGHT #3 What does fair housing mean to persons with disabilities? Fair housing laws give persons with disabilities protection from discrimination that they may encounter in housing related transactions, such as renting or buying a housing unit, obtaining mortgages or purchasing insurance. The Act also provides for accommodations and modifications that allow a disabled person equal access to services and housing. What are reasonable accommodations? Reasonable accommodations are changes in rules, policies, practices, and the way services are provided in order to ensure equal opportunity to fully enjoy one s living unit. Examples of these changes would be waiving parking and visitors fees for a person who has a home care aid, designating a disabled parking spot in front of a building, giving an oral reminder when rent is due to someone whose disability affects their memory, or allowing service animals despite a no pets rule. There are typically no costs associated with reasonable accommodations. What are reasonable modifications? Reasonable modifications are physical changes made to a dwelling or common area to make the space accessible. Examples of reasonable modifications would be implementing a ramp in front of the entrance of the building, adding a handle bar in the shower, installing an automatic shut-off water faucet for someone who has a disability that allows them to forget to turn off the water, or installing pictures or color coded signs to help a person who has a cognitive disability and has difficulty with written signs. Who is responsible to pay for reasonable modifications? Payment will depend of the type of housing and laws that apply to it. If the landlord receives federal funds she/he may be responsible for the modification as long as it does not produce a great financial or administrative hardship. If a landlord is only subject to the Fair Housing Act she/he may not have to pay for the changes that are requested. However, the FHA requires new multi-family housing built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 be accessible. Therefore, each case will differ. How do I prove that I have a disability without releasing too much information? Generally, a landlord may not ask you if you have a disability. Also, you may not be asked for information about yourself that relates to your disability unless you are seeking housing that is designated for persons with disabilities. However, a landlord may ask for proof if you ask for a reasonable accommodation or modification. This proof that you need the accommodation can come from a doctor but does not have to disclose details of the disability nor medical history or records. How do I get an accommodation or modification? A person with a disability must request an accommodation. As a tenant, you are responsible to specify the type of accommodation or modification needed. You should make the request in writing and make sure to keep a copy for yourself.

2 Familial Status Discrimination FAIR HOUSING HIGHLIGHT #5 What is familial status discrimination? Familial status discrimination refers to discrimination due to the presence of children under the age of 18 in the household. Who is protected under the Fair Housing Act in regards to familial status? Parents, legal guardians, or persons with custody of children under the age of 18 are protected. Also, women who are pregnant, those in process of securing legal custody, and those who are looking to adopt a child in the future are also protected under the Fair Housing Act. What does familial status discrimination look like? Refusal to rent to families with children having a No Children policy; Advertisements with phrases which indicate a preference for adults, such as adult atmosphere or mature couples are unlawful; Discouraging families with children from applying to a unit or steering them to certain areas in a complex or neighborhood; Requiring families with children to live in specific unit, building, section or floor of a building; Demanding that children of opposite sex have separate bedrooms; Refusing to rent based on perceived risks and dangers of the property (such as lead paint, steep steps, located near train tracks); Inquiring about pregnancy; Inquiring about childcare arrangements; Inquiring about the ages of the occupants &/or how many will be children; Charging extra for children. Does familial status discrimination occur often? In 2001, 25% of the complaints received by the Fair Housing Rights Center were based upon familial status discrimination. Nationally, familial status complaints made up about 15% of the total reported cases of housing discrimination. And according to a recent Urban Institute study, 3 out of 5 people do not know that it is illegal to treat households with children differently from households without children.

3 Communicating with People with Disabilities FAIR HOUSING HIGHLIGHT #6 The topic this month is communicating with a person with a disability. When speaking with a person with a disability, consider the following: Try to maintain eye contact and eye level with person, even if an interpreter is present. Ask the individual if they need assistance and wait for an affirmative answer and instructions. Speak in a normal tone of voice, and if the person has a visual impairment, state your name when approaching and tell the individual when you are leaving. Never touch or distract a service dog without first asking the owner. If you do not have a Text Telephone (TTY), dial 711 to reach the national telecommunications relay service, which facilitates the call between you and an individual who uses a TTY. When introduced to a person with a disability, it is appropriate to offer to shake hands. People with limited hand use or who wear an artificial limb can usually shake hands. Avoid referring to people by the disability they have, i.e. an epileptic, the blind by placing the person before or in place of the disability. Say "person with a disability," rather than "disabled person." Remember, people are not "bound" or "confined" to wheelchairs. They use them to increase their mobility and enhance their freedom. It is more accurate to say "wheelchair user" or "person who uses a wheelchair." Don t be afraid to ask questions when you're unsure of what to do. Tips for Housing Providers: Train your employees on Fair Housing laws and how they apply to persons with disabilities. Train your staff on how use a TDD or how to use the nationwide voice relay system- # 711. Be prepared to put your application and materials in accessible format. Consider all requests for reasonable accommodations and modifications. Under fair housing laws housing providers can only reject reasonable accommodation requests if they demonstrate that the request poses an undue financial or administrative burden or substantially alters the provision of the housing. All accommodation requests must be considered on a case by case basis. If your complex receives federal funding, you must also comply with 504 Regulations and generally are required to pay for structural modification to dwelling units and common areas when needed as an accommodation by a tenant or applicant with a disability. Examples of reasonable accommodations for a person with a hearing disability may be visual smoke detectors or door bells, or requests for sign language interpreters to provide effective communication.

4 Fair Housing Protections for People with Mental Disabilities FAIR HOUSING HIGHLIGHT #16 I know that a landlord can t discriminate against a person with a physical disability but what about a person with a mental disability? Does a landlord have to rent to someone with mental problems? Under the Fair Housing laws a housing provider cannot discriminate against a person with a physical OR mental disability. This includes people with mental health disabilities, AIDS/HIV infection, or those who have a prior history of alcoholism or drug abuse. A housing provider cannot use disability as a reason to deny housing. Just as a landlord may be required to allow reasonable modifications for a physically disabled tenant such as installing grab bars in the shower, or a wheelchair ramp, the law also recognizes that people with mental or emotional disabilities often desperately need certain accommodations so that they also can live independently in their dwelling. What are common types of reasonable accommodations? Some typical accommodations include: helping a mentally retarded applicant fill out a rental form, oral reminders to pay the rent on time, allowing a transfer to a different unit due to a disability, or accepting a reference from an applicant s social worker instead of employer or previous landlord. An accommodation has to be reasonable (practical and feasible) and necessary for the tenant to use and enjoy their housing. I went off my medication for bi-polar disorder and had a couple of fights with other tenants. I ended up in the hospital and am now back on my meds. I m sorry for what happened. But the manager says she s had it and I m being evicted. Now what? If your behavior has resulted in a lease violation (i.e. threatening other tenants, damaging property etc) that was tied to your disability you could request that your landlord allow you time to obtain services that would address the behavior before evicting you. At the very least, the landlord should postpone the eviction hearing until after your hospitalization providing your rent is paid. However this does not mean that you can continue to violate your lease. If you refuse treatment and the behavior continues, you could be evicted. My mom is a person with depression and she has to move out of her apartment. She s upset because everywhere she goes they tell her NO PETS. She relies on her little dog Fluffy for companionship and her doctor believes the dog provides emotional support and helps in treating her depression. I m afraid for her emotional well-being if she has to give him up. Can anything be done? Yes. Although many landlords understand the obvious need of a person with a disability for a service animal like a seeing-eye dog, recent research also makes it clear that people with other disabilities can benefit tremendously from an emotional support animal. Like a seeing-eye dog, an emotional support animal is NOT to be considered a pet but rather an assistive aid requiring the landlord to make an exception from their NO PETS policy so that the tenant with an emotional disability can use and enjoy his or her dwelling. How would a request for an accommodation be determined reasonable? What if my landlord still says NO? An accommodation must be: 1) Requested of the housing provider; 2) Necessary and related to the disability; and 3) Reasonable- i.e. not an administrative or financial burden to the landlord or a fundamental alteration to the way is housing is provided. If you have made a request for a reasonable accommodation and your landlord still refuses to comply, you may be able to file a discrimination complaint under the Fair Housing Act.

5 Service Animals and NO PET Policies FAIR HOUSING HIGHLIGHT #35 A friend wanted to move into an apartment with her dog but the landlord said, Sorry! No pets. She explained that her dog helps her cope with depression and that her doctor could verify this. The landlord said Everyone loves their dog. If I let you keep your dog, then I will have to let everyone else keep their dogs. Is this legal since the need for a dog is related to a disability? NO! Under the Fair Housing Act, if you are a person with a disability who requires a service animal to help you manage your disability, you have the right to request a reasonable accommodation to a No Pets policy. If the need for the disability is not obvious, a housing provider may ask for a note from a doctor demonstrating the need for the service animal and its relationship to the person s disability. However, a housing provider cannot deny a person a service animal due to a fear that all the other residents will want to keep their animals. The snowball effect is never an excuse to violate the Fair Housing Act. What is the difference between a service animal and a pet? Service animals are often called assistance animals, companion animals, support animals or therapy animals. Service animals are NOT pets. Rather, service animals are animals that work, provide assistance, perform tasks for the person with a disability or provide emotional support that alleviates the symptoms of a person s disability. Because the person needs the animal because of their disability, fair housing laws require housing providers to modify a No Pets policy for a person who uses a service animal. For example: a Seeing Eye dog is not a pet it is a service animal, even when the person has a great affection for the dog. In addition, because a service animal is not a pet, a person should not pay any pet deposits or additional fees associated to the animal, unless the animal causes damage beyond normal wear and tear. Do service animals have to be specific breeds, such as a German Sheppard? Do they need to be certified or trained? Service animals are not limited to a particular breed, size or weight. Although the most common type of service animal is a dog, other species such as a cat or bird are often used, especially as emotional support animals for people with psychological disabilities. In addition, service animals do not have to wear special collars and harnesses nor do they have to be licensed or have official identification papers. There are many types of service animals which are not certified and don t have special training, such as companion animals. While they do not do a specific task such as respond when there is an alarm, the animal does provide emotional support and thus is considered a service animal. In other words, there is no legal requirement for service animals to be visibly identified or to have certification or training. What other things do service animals typically do? Service animals often perform tasks that the individual with a disability cannot do alone. For example: Carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility problems; A hearing animal alerts a person who is deaf to a ringing smoke alarm or a knock on the door. Other service animals may help by fetching, opening doors, ringing doorbells, activating elevator buttons, helping a person up after a fall, etc. A seizure response animal may assist a person with epilepsy by going for help, or may stand guard over a person who is having a seizure. Emotional support/companion animals can alleviate depression, anxiety, stress, and difficulties with social interactions, allowing their owners to live independently and fully use their living environment.

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