How to Handle Modification/Accommodation Requests
By: Sarah Reddy – North Carolina Licensed Litigation Managing Attorney with Brownlee Whitlow & Praet, PLLC
On many occasions, housing providers are contacted by residents with requests for a modification to their home or accommodation to their Lease. Whenever this happens, we recommend taking the following steps to ensure compliance with federal and state law.
We recommend that requests for modifications and/or accommodations be reviewed through the following 3-step process:
1. Disability: If the disability is not readily apparent, then the request should include information about the nature of the disability. You can also require some documentation from the resident’s medical/mental health professional confirming the disability.
2. Connection: The resident must demonstrate a connection between their disability and their request. (i.e. how does granting the request alleviate or reduce the limitations of their disability)
3. Reasonableness: If the first two steps are completed, you must then determine if the request is reasonable. This step should always be addressed on a case-by-case basis. You cannot deny a request based on a belief that granting the resident’s request will lead to any number of other residents making the same request.
If any of the above steps are not met, then you may be able to deny the resident’s request. It is critically important that you respond to any request promptly, as any delay beyond 10 days could be deemed a denial. There should be an interactive process whereby you offer some other proposal to accommodate the request if it is determined that the resident’s initial request is unreasonable.
Additionally, it should be noted that residents do not have to use the terms “reasonable accommodation” or “reasonable modification” to make such a request. Any statement by the resident which makes it clear that they are requesting a change to your usual policy or a structural change can be construed as an accommodation or modification request and such request does NOT have to be in writing.
Finally, it is highly recommended that you reach out to your risk management department, general counsel or designated outside counsel when presented with an accommodation request or modification request to confirm your rights before acting.
*The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information in this article is for general informational purposes only. Information in this article may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Viewers of this material should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No viewer of this material should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information in this presentation without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation. Use of, and access to, this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Brownlee Whitlow & Praet, PLLC or any contributing law firms. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this article are hereby expressly disclaimed.