What Your Common Interest Community Needs To Know When Considering Requests By Disabled Owners For A "Reasonable Accommodation"
The United States Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for a residential common interest community to discriminate in the terms, conditions or privileges of the sale or rental of housing, or in the provision of services in connection with a dwelling, because of race, familial status, gender, religion or disability. When it comes to the "disabled", unlawful discrimination is further defined as the condominium's failure to make a "reasonable accommodation" in its practices, policies, etc. so that an owner can have an "equal opportunity to use and/or enjoy a dwelling". Specifically, the applicable federal regulation provides:
"(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to refuse to permit, at the expense of a handicapped person, reasonable modifications of existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a handicapped person, if the proposed modifications may be necessary to afford the handicapped person full enjoyment of the premises of a dwelling".
In this regard, common interest community associations often receive requests from disabled owners that they be allowed to modify a common element, building component, etc., at their expense. For example, a disabled owner may ask for the right to install a ramp to his or her unit to allow for wheelchair access to the unit. When considering a "reasonable accommodation" request, as they are commonly called, the condominium should not condition its approval of the request on the disabled person's promise or duty to restore the area in question back to its original condition. In fact, it is clear that only with request to rentals, not owners, can this be done. The applicable federal regulation provides: "In the case of a rental, the landlord may, where it is reasonable to do so, condition permission for a modification on the renter agreeing to restore the interior of the premises to the condition that existed before the modification, reasonable wear and tear excepted."
Residential condominiums should consult with counsel once it receives any owner or resident’s request for a "reasonable accommodation" pursuant to the United States Fair Housing Act.