Tenant Screening Tips to Accommodate Disabled Tenants

By 20th February 2015Blog

While running a property management business, it is necessary to have appropriate knowledge of renting out properties to disabled tenants. Many landlords may have never had a disabled person submitting a rental application, but it is always better to know how disabled individuals are protected by law.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects individuals with physical or mental disabilities that limit one or more major life activities substantially. These disabilities include visual and hearing impairments, mobility, mental illness, chronic alcoholism, mental retardation, and HIV/AIDS. Landlords or property managers may not discriminate against these people nor against those individuals who have a history of such disabilities. Also, landlords should not make unreasonable inquiries when renting out their property to prospective disabled tenants.

Here are some inquiries that landlords should avoid during the tenant screening process of a disabled person.

  • Landlords are not allowed to ask for medical records when renting out a property unit to a disabled individual.

  • Landlords should not turn down mentally disabled applicants on the basis of their condition alone. If the mentally disabled has threatened or harmed others in the past then that could be an appropriate ground for rejection.

  • Landlords must not assume that a prospective disabled tenant cannot live in certain housing. For instance, a rental applicant in a wheelchair cannot be told there are no vacancies if a third floor apartment is available.

Landlords must accommodate prospective disabled tenants with reason, at their own expense. This means modifying rules, such as relocating the area to dump the garbage or allowing a close-by parking area, but only under ‘reasonable’ category. Installing an elevator for convenience of a disabled tenant using crutches to reach upstairs would not come fall under the ‘reasonable’ category.

Reasonable Accommodations

Disabled tenants must be permitted to make reasonable modifications to their rental units or common areas in order to live conveniently and safely. For instance, a tenant with a child in a wheelchair must be permitted to widen the doorway that leads to the bathroom and install bars around the toilet and tub at their own expense. Also, the landlord may not need the tenant to return the doorway to its original condition as it won’t be a hindrance for the next tenant who would be using it. However, landlord may ask the tenant to remove the grab bars to return the walls to their original condition.

Other reasonable accommodations include lowering countertops in the kitchen for a tenant using a wheelchair, altering appliances so that a visually impaired tenant can use them, or allowing the installation of an extra-loud doorbell for a tenant with hearing impairment. All these modifications must be requested orally or in writing, approved by the landlord, and paid for by the tenant. Landlords may ask the tenant to return the rental unit to its original condition upon the termination of the rental lease.

While allowing reasonable accommodations, landlords are permitted to ask for a description of proposed modification along with the proof explaining that they will be implemented in accordance with the law and in the right manner.

By learning all these tips and facts, landlords should not discriminate against the disabled tenants during their tenant screening process and permit reasonable accommodations when renting out their property to disabled individuals.