Accommodation requests can be a challenge on any given day. But what happens when you have two competing requests? How should these be handled to ensure fair housing compliance?
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Let’s face it, accommodation requests come in all shapes and sizes and are part of the everyday inner workings of leasing offices. Some can be quite straightforward, while others can prove to throw up otherwise unseen hurdles. In this article, we will discuss some examples of competing accommodation requests and the best practices that need to be followed to avoid a fair housing complaint.
Back to Basics – What Is an Accommodation Request/Competing Request?
An accommodation request is when an applicant or resident has a disability that requires an accommodation or exception to a property’s usual rules and policies. Accommodation requests are there to remove barriers that might affect a resident’s ability to live comfortably.
A competing accommodation request is when you have one or more applicants that require accommodations, but the accommodations requested could pose a conflict between the two applicants. For example, resident A is requesting accommodation for their assistance animal, but their next-door neighbor, resident B, is also requesting accommodation due to their allergies. You can see how this could create a conflict as all types of properties, regardless of funding, are required to evaluate both accommodation requests.
Best Practices for Handling Competing Accommodation Requests
The first step is to realize that there are no easy answers here, and you must proceed with utmost caution and keep the lines of communication open with all parties involved. Remember that management never decides if one person’s disability is more severe than the others.
You must follow the same standard process of identifying and verifying each individual’s needs. Have each party fill out your accommodation request form and provide verification from a medical professional. Once all the documentation is in order, you can review it and discuss options with each applicant individually. One main reason for following these steps is that an answer may present itself once all the facts are laid out. For example, resident A’s assistance animal is a cat, and according to resident B’s physician, they are allergic to dogs, not cats. Problem solved. But what if resident B is allergic to cats? What then?
There are multiple options, such as a unit transfer or increased unit filtration. Whatever remedies you propose, be sure that your residents feel heard and that their needs are not being considered less than anyone else’s. This could lead to disability harassment between the two applicants, which is the last thing you want. By taking steps to communicate effectively and hopefully find a solution that fits everyone’s needs, you can ensure that everyone has access to a comfortable living environment.
Competing Accommodation Requests – Final Takeaway
There are two main points that need to be remembered when working through potentially difficult situations like this. First, under no circumstances should a property feel they need to decide whether one applicant’s disability is worse than another’s. Secondly, open communication with all parties involved to work through the identification, verification, and resolution process is critical to ensure that everyone feels heard and accommodated.
Of course, despite your best efforts, you may still have a tenuous situation. Still, if your staff has had access to quality training and document that they have followed all required steps, you have a great foundation of facts to rely upon if a charge of discrimination is levied.
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