31 Days of Fair Housing (Part 5)

I KNOW that April only has 30 days and April is Fair Housing Month, but we started early. so don't miss a single day-get the rest at http://aptdynamics.com/blog-posts

Day 21

  • One of the goals of the Fair Housing Act is to disabled prospects and residents the same as those who aren't disabled, so that they can enjoy their apartment homes like everyone else.  Here are some basics:

You don’t have the right to know what a person’s disability is or how bad it is, so don’t ask.

You do have the right to verify the existence of a disability if it’s not readily apparent. 

Use a “Request for Reasonable Accommodation Form” when you asked for a modification and you wouldn’t know there was a disability, or if you are aware of the disability but the accommodation the resident/prospect has asked for doesn’t seem to be connected to the request.

If the resident or prospect brings his/her own information from another source (see day 15) then use that rather than making them use our form.

More on fair housing and disabled prospects and residents to come!

Day 22

  • According to HUD, more than 50% of Fair Housing Claims are currently about disabilities! So learn how to treat the disabled prospects and residents correctly!  Here’s a common mistake: 

It’s tempting but don’t EVER decide which apartment will best suit a person with a disability, or eliminate their choices in any way.  I know you want to be nice or logical, and say, not offer to show someone in a wheel chair a second floor apartment home. But RESIST the temptation to eliminate their choices!  It’s illegal and it’s called STEERING.  Tell a prospect about all vacancies or notices in their time frame of the size they’ve asked for and then let them decide which apartments are suitable. Tell about ALL vacancies even if you have available accessible apartments available. It is their decision if they want to see/lease only the accessible or ground-floor apartments, and only then would you limit what you would show a prospect.

Day 23

  • We make modifications, or allow residents with disabilities to make reasonable modifications to the apartment and common areas. The resident has the right to make physical alterations to help him or her live in the apartment, as long as they're reasonable. For instance, a common reasonable modification request is to install grab bars in the bathroom for added support.  We cover up to $200 of the cost of modifications, and the resident would be required to pay for anything above that.  If they make the modifications the lease states that they are to get our permission beforehand.  This can be a note, or the “Request for Reasonable Modification” form (see day 21), or even verbal. Be sure and document!

Day 24

  • Don’t ask questions about the nature of a disability. Many prospective residents are asked about their disabilities when they go apartment hunting. But questions like, "Can you walk at all?" "How did you lose your leg?" and "What medications did they give you for that?" are all illegal, even if your goal is just to get to know the prospect better.  Stay away from all those types of questions!  Don’t Ask!

Day 25

  • Parking! Parking! Parking!

Special thanks to our industry friends!  The following is co-authored by Theresa L. Kitay, Esquire, who specializes in defense of Fair Housing Act cases and Nadeen Green, Senior Counsel with For Rent Media Solutions™, who regularly teaches fair housing classes to the apartment industry.   Thank you, Nadeen, Terry and ForRent, for the following: 

If a Person with a Disability (PWD) asks you to work with them regarding their parking, make it happen... Landlords rarely win fair housing parking cases! … Have a conversation with the PWD and find out what they are trying to accomplish and how they think you might best be able to make that happen.
•    Is the need location based? If so, which area works best for the person?
•    Does the PWD need a regular sized parking space, or one that is larger for van, wheelchair or walker use?
•    Does the PWD want the parking space designated as “handicapped parking” or “reserved?”
•    Does the PWD also need a curb cut or ramp if one is not already in place?
Keep in mind that the concept of “reasonable accommodation” expects that the landlord will cover any so-called “de minimus” expenses associated with the accommodation.  In parking, for instance, the cost of the sign or some minimal parking lot striping would be small and should be paid by the landlord; installing a new ramp is likely a more significant cost and is typically the resident’s financial responsibility.

Reasonable accommodation is not limited just to providing the parking space. There is a duty to “defend” that parking space on behalf of the PWD as well. A landlord ended up paying when he provided a parking space for the PWD but then did nothing when others parked there.

Have a dialogue with the PWD and let that person know that if there are any problems connected with the use of the parking space that you want those problems brought to your attention. In fact, a nice letter to this effect is wise. When problems are brought to your attention, address them because (all together now): Landlords rarely win fair housing parking cases! Thank you, Terry and Nadeen! 

So if someone requests an accessible parking place, and their disability is obvious, or they have the license tag or placard, you don’t need any further documentation of their need. If it is not obvious, and they don’t have the vehicle tag or placard, you may ask for proof of the need for an accessible parking space. You can use our Request for Reasonable Accommodation Form or their documentation – see Day 15.

Stay Tuned for the last Digest!