If you own a rental property, fairness and accessibility are key when renting to disabled tenants. Here’s an overview of what every landlord needs to know.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 prohibit discrimination for, among other things, disabilities. Disabilities include impairments in mobility, hearing, vision, and mental capacity. Alcoholism (if the person is being treated), and HIV/AIDS also fall under the category of disability. This means landlords may not advertise in a way that discourages those with physical or mental impairments from applying. Landlords also are prohibited from discriminating in the terms of the lease agreement. In an interview or during the application process, landlords are prohibited from asking about any disabilities or asking to see medical records.
Reasonable and accessible accommodations must be made for the disabled. This could mean providing accessible parking, allowing a service animal, changing door and faucet handles, and making policy exceptions. Landlords do not have to make unreasonably expensive modifications that could affect their ability to lease their property in the future. However, they must allow disabled tenants to make reasonable changes at the tenant’s expense if the change can be shown to be directly pertinent to the impairment. The landlord can require that the modifications be restored to the original state after the tenant leaves. For example, a wheelchair-bound tenant may have counters lowered, but the landlord can require their restoration at the end of the lease.
Being proactive about making physical accommodations builds goodwill and may even make a property more marketable in the future. Installing pedestal sinks and raised toilets in bathrooms, and adding alarms that can be activated with a remote are all relatively affordable and add value.