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Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications Under the Fair Housing Act


Reasonable Accommodations

A reasonable accommodation is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including common areas, or to fulfill their program obligations.

Reasonable accommodations eliminate barriers that prevent people with disabilities from fully participating in housing opportunities in private housing and in federally assisted programs or activities. It is unlawful to require people to pay extra fees or deposits or place any other special conditions on their housing because they receive a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodations are at the expense of the housing provider.

Examples of reasonable accommodations

Private housing providers Public Housing Authorities
Additional time to move out Approval of a higher payment standard
Additional time to comply with notices re rule violations Approval of a higher subsidy standard (extra bedrooms) for disability-related equipment or other needs
Additional time to obtain treatment, services, or assistance in lieu of termination Approval of a higher utility allowance for higher costs related to disability-related equipment
Waiver of no-pet rules, pet restrictions and pet fees for an assistance animal Approval of live-in aide
Auxiliary aids and services, (e.g., ASL interpreter, remote captioning, large print, Braille) for lease, notices re leasing, and other documents Auxiliary aids and services, (e.g., ASL interpreter, remote captioning, large print, Braille) for all PHA notices, correspondence and/or communications
Change in date rent is due until after disability benefits received Approval of longer search term to find affordable housing and use vouchers
Change in usual tenant communications (e.g., designated point of contact, email only) Change in usual participant communications (e.g., designated point of contact, email only)
Early release from lease without penalty Reinstatement to the wait list
Maintenance assistance with moving furniture or appliance to comply with pest control, inspections, repairs etc.
Parking (e.g., reserved parking space, accessible parking space, transfer or exchange parking spaces)
Transfer to a different available unit (i.e., first floor apartment, corner unit)
Waiver of inflexible rules re evaluating ability to pay to allow for co-signers or guarantors

Reasonable Modifications

A reasonable modification is a structural change made to existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability, to afford the person full enjoyment of the premises. Reasonable modifications can include structural changes to interiors and exteriors of dwellings and to common areas. The FHA makes it unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to permit, at the expense of the person with a disability, reasonable modifications of existing premises if such modifications may be necessary to afford them full enjoyment of the premises.

Examples of Reasonable Modifications

Widening exterior or interior doorways Installing sunshades in an outdoor area
Installing grab bars in the bathroom Changing hardware to accessible handles
Lowering kitchen cabinets Lowering peephole in entrance
Installing a ramp to the primary entrance Adding automatic door opener to laundry
Erecting a fence to prevent elopement Installing a pool lift

Two Situations When the Housing Provider Must Pay for Reasonable Modification

The Fair Housing Act includes design and construction for 7 accessibility features for covered multifamily housing properties in addition to the obligation to permit reasonable modifications. When a reasonable modification is necessary because of the covered entity’s failure to meet an applicable design standard (e.g., doorways don’t meet the width standard) the housing provider should pay the cost of the reasonable modification.

The 7 Design Standards include:

  • Accessible building entrance on an accessible route.
  • Accessible and usable public and common use areas.
  • Usable doors.
  • Accessible route into and through the covered dwelling unit.
  • Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations.
  • Reinforced walls for grab bars.
  • Usable kitchens and bathrooms.

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, a housing provider that receives federal financial assistance must pay for the structural modification as a reasonable accommodation unless it amounts to an undue financial and administrative burden or a fundamental alteration of the program.

Possible Funding Sources for Reasonable Modifications:

  • Medicaid 1915(c) Home and Community-Based Services Waiver
  • Consolidated Plan Funds
  • State Housing Finance Agency (HFA) Programs
  • Veterans Programs
  • State Vocational Rehabilitation agency
  • State Assistive Technology Programs
  • Local Center for Independent Living
  • The National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modifications

Questions and Answers about the Reasonable Accommodation and Modification Requirements

Who must provide reasonable accommodations and modifications? The FHA covers most housing, such as apartments, single family homes, condos, mobile home shelters, dorms, extended stay hotels, group homes, and RV parks. The FHA exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent, and housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
When is a reasonable accommodation or modification required? When there is an identifiable nexus between the requested accommodation or modification and the individual’s disability.
Do I need to provide medical information
with my request?
If a person’s disability and need for the requested accommodation or modification is obvious or known to the provider, then the provider may not request any additional information. If the disability or need for the requested accommodation or modification is not obvious or known, the provider may request only information that is necessary to evaluate the disability or need for the accommodation.
What can I do if my housing provider or the PHA does not agree to my request? You can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office within one year of the date of the fair housing violation.

Resources for More Information

U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Justice Joint Statement on Reasonable Accommodations Under the FHA

U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Justice Joint Statement on Reasonable Modifications Under the FHA

U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Justice Joint Guidance on Accessibility under the FHA

New Resources