What is a Reasonable Accommodation, and Why Do I Have to Write a Letter to Get One?
A Reasonable Accommodation is a request based on your needs resulting from your disability.
Another situation that would require a written request for reasonable accommodation is in housing. Service Dogs are permitted in all rental housing according to the Fair Housing Act of 1988. This includes no pet housing. According to HUD (Housing and Urban Development) portal: the Fair Housing Act of 1988 exempts owner-occupied buildings that have no more than four units; single-family housing sold or rented without using a broker; and housing operated by organizations or private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
HUD also says that no one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap:
- Refuse to rent or sell housing
- Refuse to negotiate for housing
- Make housing unavailable
- Deny a dwelling
- Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
- Provide different housing services or facilities
- Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
- For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
- Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.
HUD is very specific in addressing needs and issues affecting people who have disabilities. The following information applies to people with disabilities:
“If you or someone associated with you:
- Have a physical or mental disability (including hearing, mobility and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex and mental retardation) that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- Have a record of such a disability or
- Are regarded as having such a disability
Your landlord may not:
- Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing. (Where reasonable, the landlord may permit changes only if you agree to restore the property to its original condition when you move.)
- Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing.
Example: A building with a no pets policy must allow a visually impaired tenant to keep a guide dog.
Example: An apartment complex that offers tenants ample, unassigned parking must honor a request from a mobility-impaired tenant for a reserved space near her apartment if necessary to assure that she can have access to her apartment.
However, housing need not be made available to a person who is a direct threat to the health or safety of others or who currently uses illegal drugs.”
Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation
The request to the landlord from a person with a disability requesting reasonable accommodations while renting an apartment, house or other residential structure should include:
Your telephone number
The date of your letter
To whom your letter is addressed to
The next part is the important part where you disclose you are a person with a disability, and state the reasonable accommodations you are requesting. You will need documentation that you have a disability, and have a need for the accommodations you are requesting. Your doctor can write a brief note on a prescription pad, or write a brief letter on his letterhead stationery verifying what you are requesting and why. Your request for reasonable accommodation can be via email, or a formal letter sent requiring signature of receipt.
Understand that you have the right to file a complaint through Fair Housing if your landlord refuses to contact you or refuses to allow your reasonable accommodation request. You also have the right to negotiate with your landlord the items you need to enjoy full access to your living quarters, the building and the property.