Episode 22 of Fair Housing Insiders
Allergies are a complex topic. They range in type as well as severity. When do they rise to meet the criteria for granting a reasonable accommodation?
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Table of contents
Highlights of Episode 22 – Resident Allergies – Reasonable Accommodation?
Allergies – Disability: Yes or No?
First, keep in mind the definition of a disability: “A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”
Based on this definition, we can see that allergies rarely meet the standard needed for a reasonable accommodation. But a word of warning: do not jump to conclusions. We are not health care specialists.
A resident has complained that they suffer from an allergy or chemical sensitivity caused by the neighbor’s scented candles. This raises the question: is this a disability or not? Once again, we are not doctors and need to follow through with the appropriate documentation and address the complaint.
The easiest and perhaps the most obvious solution would be to have management approach the neighbor and politely ask that they refrain from burning the candles. If the neighbor complies, the problem is solved.
However, if the neighbor chooses not to comply, you will need to investigate further to see if this resident’s allergies are, in fact, a disability. You must begin with adequate documentation.
Healthcare Provider Verification of Disability
The first step is to ask the resident to fill out the appropriate form and provide you with the healthcare provider’s contact information. Next, a verification form should be sent to that healthcare provider. This is better than simply asking for a letter, as a verification document will have the specific questions you need to have answered to determine eligibility for a reasonable accommodation.
Once the document is returned and verified, the next step would be to determine what remedies can be employed. This could include placing filters in the resident’s vents. If the problem persists, then you could move on to installing air purifiers or sterilizers, documenting each attempt to remedy the situation along the way.
Unreasonable Accommodation Request
You have tried all available remedies to mitigate the effects the scented candles are having on the resident. But what if they now demand that their entire floor be restricted from using scented candles as they can smell them when walking to and from the elevator? What are your options?
We are now moving into the realm of an unreasonable request. You could offer to move the resident, but this rarely works as a similar problem could occur in the new residence. You can inform the resident that you have taken steps to employ all known remedies and that this is all that is available. The documentation that backs this up will be imperative if the resident lodges a complaint with HUD.
Allergies really can be a challenge, with some cases not resulting in a resolution. But with the right policies and documentation in place, you can protect both the resident’s rights as well as your own.
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