Unreasonable Accommodations - Is There Such a Thing? - The Fair Housing Institute, Inc.
Unreasonable accommodations

Unreasonable Accommodations – Is There Such a Thing?

Property managers strive to provide equal opportunities and accessibility to all residents, and the concept of reasonable accommodations plays a pivotal role. Yet, amidst the commitment to promoting equal housing opportunities, a pressing question arises: Can such a thing as an unreasonable accommodation request exist? 

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

This article delves into the intricacies of the property management industry, shedding light on the delicate balance between meeting the diverse needs of residents and adhering to the principles of fair housing laws. Join us on this exploration of the nuances that shape the modern approach to property management and the critical importance of navigating the concept of “unreasonable accommodations” with sensitivity and diligence.

We hear so much about reasonable accommodations or modifications. What is an unreasonable accommodation?

Simply put, an unreasonable accommodation is when a request would put an undue financial or administrative burden on a property. Along with that, a fundamental alteration of your program could also be considered an unreasonable modification.

What does that all mean? Can you give some examples of when a request may be an undue financial burden or when it could be a fundamental alteration of your program?

Consider the following scenario; a wheelchair-bound resident is requesting that a property install elevators since they cannot navigate stairs alone and live on the second floor. The very first thing to be considered is the type of building. If it’s federally funded or subsidized housing, the property would be responsible for the cost of making the modifications. However, that would not be the case if the building was a conventional property. 

If a company were to deny this request based on financial reasons, they need to be prepared to prove this should the tenant question the denial or file a complaint. This could be easy enough for smaller companies, but it may prove to be more difficult for larger companies with deeper pockets. And again, this would be even more difficult for conventional properties as they are not financially responsible for the cost of the modifications. 

In the case of fundamental alterations, this is usually when a request is made for a property to provide a service that it doesn’t already provide. This can be anything from requesting a dog walker to a reduction of rent because they are disabled.

So if a request falls into one of these categories, a housing provider can deny the request? 

Technically yes, but there are a few things that should be considered first. You could possibly decline to accommodate that specific request, but you should try to work with the resident to identify alternative options by asking questions and getting their input. This is generally known as the interactive process. Going back to our scenario, a resident could be offered a transfer to a first-floor unit. Or if nothing is currently available, the ability to break their lease to move somewhere else. 

Could an accommodation or modification be considered unreasonable on one occasion and then reasonable on another (or vice versa)?

Most likely not. Of course, a property would always want to review every request on a case-by-case basis. But generally speaking, if a request puts an undue financial or administrative burden on a property or would require a fundamental alteration of your program, then it stands to reason that a precedent has been set.

In conclusion, the notion of unreasonable accommodations challenges property managers to maintain an unwavering commitment to fair housing principles while addressing the unique needs of residents.

By cultivating a deep understanding of the laws and regulations that govern the property management industry, professionals can proactively adapt to changing circumstances and avoid unintentional violations that may compromise equal housing opportunities.

As the landscape of housing laws continues to evolve, staying informed and up-to-date on fair housing education and training is of utmost importance and will continue to be on into the future.

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