It is never easy to be an owner and to manage your property at the same time, you will come to realize that managing your own property comes with certain codes of conduct you must adhere to accommodate persons with disabilities. Rejecting such requests to provide reasonable accommodations can be viewed as a violation of the Fair Housing Act. To commit that violation, whether intentionally or unintentionally can be very costly and time-consuming as you’d be spending dollars and years battling it out in court with attorneys charging you by the hour. As always, educating yourself with these laws is the safest route and not to mention, less costly to take. To properly deal with a person with a disability is a wide-ranging topic, and you don’t want to end up on the wrong end of a lawsuit, so it is important to understand both your obligations and your rights.
What is a Reasonable Request?
As much as possible, you as a landlord with a single-family residence to rent out in Simi Valley, will want to accommodate all of your renters, regardless of their individual needs in any way you can. But how do you identify which of your potential renter actually has a disability? As touchy as the situation is, it rather difficult as you do not know how to proceed without accidentally offending or possibly do something that is not appropriate. You must proceed with utmost caution.
How then do you approach a renter who does not have an obvious disability but is making a request for reasonable accommodations, like having a ramp built onto a porch or having towel bars lowered, or even having the carpet replaced due to severe life-threatening allergies? If that’s the case, you can request proof of the disability.
What Information Can You Ask Your Tenants to Provide?
The most important thing that you as a landlord have to remember is that you cannot refuse to grant reasonable accommodation requests made by a person with disabilities (PWD), but you can deny a request for a reasonable accommodation if the request was not made by or on behalf of a person with a disability or if there is no disability-related need for the accommodation. In addition, a request for a reasonable accommodation may be denied if providing the accommodation is not reasonable – i.e., if it would impose an undue financial and administrative burden on you-the housing provider or it would fundamentally alter the nature of your operations. The gray area is entered when the conversation opens up to what information you can request and what is considered reasonable.
It is important to know for your own protection that you can indeed request medical proof that a person suffers from a disability if the said disability is not immediately obvious. A doctor’s note must be provided, and, in the result of a dispute, only the Department of Housing and Urban Development can determine whether the proof is sufficient or not. Once you have established that a renter meets the definition of disability, the information provided by the renter must be kept confidential and must not be shared with other persons unless they need the information to make or assess a decision to grant or deny a reasonable accommodation request or unless disclosure is required by law.
Are Your Properties Exempt?
Single-family homes rented without the use of a real estate agent or advertising are exempt from the federal Fair Housing Act as long as the private landlord/owner doesn’t own more than three homes at the time. Apartments of four units or less are also exempt if the owner lives in one of the units. However, even if this multi-family exemption applies to you, your rental advertising must still comply with the Act. Other exemptions include the rental of a single room in a home, qualified senior housing, and housing operated by religious or private organizations if certain requirements are met.
We’re Here to Help
Bottom-line is, know that you are not alone. At Real Property Management Ventura County, we have highly trained and well-educated staff on hand to work with you on difficult situations like these ones. While you may not necessarily demand property management to handle all areas of your rental business when it comes to the federal government and obeying regulations that can feel complex and rigid at the same time, get help. For more information, contact us or call us directly at 805-387-3682. That is, after all, what we are here for.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.