Reasonable Accommodation vs. Modification And Who Pays?

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accommodation vs modification in rental housing

When a potential tenant asks for a reasonable accommodation or a modification for your apartments, do you know the difference? The Grace Hill training tip of the week focuses on reasonable accommodation vs modification and what you need to know.

By Ellen Clark

Knowing the difference between an accommodation and a modification when you get a request from a tenant is important.

  • Reasonable accommodations are changes in rules, policies, practices, or services so that a person with a disability has an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common space.
  • reasonable modification is a structural modification that is made to allow people with disabilities the full enjoyment of dwelling units and related facilities.

55% of discrimination complaints involve people with disabilities

According to The Case for Fair Housing: 2017 Fair Housing Trends Report by the National Fair Housing Alliance, nearly 55% of all reported housing discrimination complaints in 2016 involved discrimination against people with disabilities

 This statistic is a reminder of how important it is to handle reasonable accommodation and modification requests properly.  

“One type of disability discrimination prohibited by the Fair Housing Act is the refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodations are necessary to afford a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling,” according to HUD.

“The Fair Housing Act’s protection against disability discrimination covers not only tenants and home seekers with disabilities but also buyers and renters without disabilities who live or are associated with individuals with disabilities.

“The Act also prohibits housing providers from refusing residency to persons with disabilities, or placing conditions on their residency, because they require reasonable accommodations.  Since rules, policies, practices, and services may have a different effect on persons with disabilities than on others, treating persons with disabilities exactly the same as others will sometimes deny them an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling,” according to HUD.

Examples of an accommodation vs a modification

 Some examples of reasonable accommodations are changes in rules, policies, practices, or services so that a person with a disability has an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common space such as:

  • Allowing a resident who is blind to have a seeing eye dog when the policy is “no pets allowed”
  • Reserving a parking space close to a resident’s apartment when the parking policy is “first-come first-served”
  • Waiving guest fees for a resident with a disability who requires a live-in nurse

Some examples of a reasonable modification is a structural modification that is made to allow people with disabilities the full enjoyment of dwelling units and related facilities such as:

  • Installing grab bars in bathrooms
  • Installing visual doorbells or fire alarms
  • Lowering kitchen cabinets

Who is responsible for the cost of an accommodation vs a modification?

The housing provider is typically responsible for costs associated with accommodations.

However, the person with a disability is typically responsible for the cost of a modification (though not, for example, in cases where the housing provider receives federal financial assistance).

 If modifications to a dwelling unit will interfere with the next resident’s use, the person with a disability is responsible for returning the apartment to its original condition before moving out. The person with a disability cannot be required to restore modifications to common areas or the exterior of the apartment home.

What does “reasonable” mean in an accommodation vs a modification?

  • It must not cause an excessive financial or administrative burden to the housing provider
  • It must not cause a basic change to the nature of the housing programs available
  • It must not cause harm or damage to others
  • It must be technically possible.

Summary of accommodation vs. modification

You do not have to provide a requested accommodation or modification when it does not meet the above standards for what is considered reasonable.  However, you should try to find an alternative that might help your customer.

Read Ellen’s full blog post here.

 Resources:

Reasonable Accommodations Under The Fair Housing Act

National Fair Housing Alliance

2017 Fair Housing Trends Report

Read Ellen’s full blog post here.

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About the author:

Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill.  Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent over 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools - measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leadership and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.

About Grace Hill

For nearly two decades, Grace Hill has been developing best-in-class online training courseware and administration solely for the Property Management Industry, designed to help people, teams and companies improve performance and reduce risk.

Photo credit gpetric via istockphoto.com

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