Reasonable Accommodation Overview
One type of disability discrimination prohibited by the Fair Housing Act is the refusal to make reasonable accommodation in rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodation may be necessary to afford a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a program or dwelling under the program.
The PHA must ensure that persons with disabilities have full access to the PHA's programs and services. This responsibility begins with the first inquiry of an interested family and continues through every programmatic area of the program.
"The LHA will ask all applicants and tenants if they require any type of accommodations, in writing, on the intake application by including the following language:
'If you or anyone in your family is a person with disabilities, and you require a specific accommodation in order to fully utilize our programs and services, please contact the housing office.'"
Definition of Reasonable Accommodation
The definition of a reasonable accommodation is a person with a disability who may require special accommodations in order to have equal access to the program. The types of reasonable accommodations the PHA can provide include changes, exceptions, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service.
Federal regulations stipulate that requests for accommodations will be considered reasonable if they do not create an "undue financial and administrative burden" for the PHA, or result in a "fundamental alteration" in the nature of the program or service offered. A fundamental alteration is a modification that alters the essential nature of a provider's operations.
Types of Reasonable Accommodations
When needed, the PHA must modify normal procedures to accommodate the needs of a person with disabilities. Examples include:
- Permitting applications and reexaminations to be completed by mail
- Conducting home visits
- Permitting an authorized designee or advocate to participate in the application or certification process and any other meeting with PHA staff
- Displaying posters and other housing information in locations throughout the PHA's office in such a manner as to be easily readable from a wheelchair
Request for an Accommodation
If an applicant or tenant indicates that an exception, change, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service is needed because of a disability, HUD requires that the PHA treat the information as a request for a reasonable accommodation, even if no formal request is made (Joint Statement of the departments of HUD and Justice: Reasonable Accommodations under the Fair Housing Act).
The family must explain what type of accommodation is needed to provide the person with the disability full access to the PHA's programs and services.
If the need for the accommodation is not readily apparent or known to the PHA, the family must explain the relationship between the requested accommodation and the disability. There must be an identifiable relationship, or nexus, between the requested accommodation and the individual's disability.
"The LHA will encourage the family to make its request in writing using a reasonable accommodation request form. (Please click here for the form.) If the provision of equipment such as air conditioners or other modifications would result in a violation of HUD UPCS but not of the State building and health codes, 'reasonable accommodation' shall prevail, not UPCS."
If you would like to view the Lowell Housing Authority's "Reasonable Accommodations Policy" in its entirety, please click here.