Melanie Kibble, approved Vice President of Compliance at Mercy Housing Management Group, drugs spoke about the Fair Housing requirements related to providing reasonable accommodation for persons with a disability at Lightengale Group’s Fair Housing Seminar in January. In part one, more about we looked at what reasonable accommodations are, who pays for their associated costs, and documentation. In part two, we’ll look at support animals, parking spaces, transfers, and dialogue about options.
The most common request for accommodation is to have a support animal. Support animals do not complete an obvious job like a Seeing Eye Dog. Instead, they provide emotional support to a person. Support animals are usually cats or dogs, but are sometimes rodents, reptiles, or livestock. If any type of animal is banned by local code (dangerous dog breeds, livestock), they do not have to be allowed into the property. If a person requests more than one support animal, you can ask for documentation on what the second support animal will provide that the first one cannot.
Another common request for accommodation is an assigned parking space. This is most common among elderly and disabled drivers who need to be as close as possible to the entrance. Assigned parking spaces are usually not handicapped accessible spaces; they are most often regular parking spaces closest to the entrance and are assigned on a first come first served basis. In some elderly developments with limited parking spaces, it is possible that all off-street parking is assigned to disabled residents.
Residents may request a transfer to another unit in the development because of noisy neighbors, smoke coming in from a neighboring unit, or to eliminate stairs or distance from an elevator. For the noisy neighbor, Ms. Kibble recommends verifying that the noise exists and attempting to mitigate the noise in their existing unit. There is no guarantee, of course, that transferring to another unit will be quieter. For smoke, that may also be difficult to control depending on the building’s mechanical systems. Many properties are successfully becoming smoke-free. For those needing a different unit, it is helpful to have that language in your Tenant Selection Policy to provide preference for in-development transfers.
In Unit Changes
Per Mr. Moore’s discussion, all properties built since 1991 are required to have the reinforcement for grab bars pre-installed in all bathrooms per FHAA requirements. However, Ms. Kibble reminds us that the exact location of that reinforcement may not be known. In fact, some states require documented professional installation of grab bars to ensure that they will properly function for disabled residents.
Other changes in the units (removing sliding doors or door closures) may be a violation of REAC. It is important to keep the documentation on file for the unit for any item that could create a potential violation. Step-in tubs make modifying a shower or bath unit into the other much simpler.
Dialogue about Reasonable Accommodation Options
Sometimes, the tenant’s request is not reasonable or achievable for whatever reason. In this instance, it is required to enter into a dialogue with the resident on other options that may achieve their goal to see if there is a solution that will work.
An example is a tenant who provides documentation that she needs a washer/dryer in her unit due to her limited mobility. After obtaining documentation from a plumber that the age and configuration of the building cannot accommodate an in-unit washer, she agrees to take a unit adjacent to the laundry room.
Lightengale Group thanks Ms. Kibble for sharing her wealth of information about Reasonable Accommodations with us.