The task of managing your own property can be challenging depending on whether or not you know what you need to do. You may have only just realized that there are certain codes of conduct you must follow to accommodate persons with disabilities. Refusal to provide reasonable accommodations can be viewed as a violation of the Fair Housing Act. Making that kind of violation, even accidentally, can result in years spent in court, and dollars you would rather not part with spent on expensive attorneys. Taking some time to educate yourself on the matter can help you avoid all that unnecessary hassle.
What is a Reasonable Request?
Who would not want to accommodate all renters’ requests? You, as a landlord with a single-family residence in League City to rent out, would want to do so regardless of their specific needs, in any way you can. But how do you know if your potential renter actually has a disability? Managing a situation like this can be like walking through a minefield; you must proceed with caution.
If in case a potential renter does not have an obvious disability but is making a request for reasonable accommodations, like having a ramp built onto a porch or having towel bars lowered, or even having the carpet replaced due to severe life-threatening allergies, then for your own protection you can request proof of the disability. It is within your right as a landlord to ask for such a document. To treat a person with a disability is a wide-ranging topic, there are tons that you don’t want to say and do and you don’t want to end up on the wrong end of a lawsuit, so it is important to understand both your obligations and your rights. Just steer clear of anything that sounds offensive and derogatory, wouldn’t hurt to be extra careful.
What Information Can You Ask Your Tenants to Provide?
First, realize that you cannot refuse to grant reasonable accommodation requests made by a person with disabilities. The gray area is entered when the conversation opens up to what information you can request and what is considered reasonable. It is important to know for your own protection that you can indeed request medical proof that a person suffers from a disability if the said disability is not immediately obvious. A doctor’s note must be provided, and, in the result of a dispute, only the Department of Housing and Urban Development can determine whether the proof is sufficient or not.
Also, you should be aware that you are not responsible for providing any accommodation to anyone that would place a financial burden on you as a landlord. Because you are not renting out apartments in a complex, you will not be expected to make major changes to your home if those changes would be detrimental to your financial situation. If the request to a reasonable accommodation is denied, a letter should be sent to the renter explaining the denial, the facts behind the denial, how those facts were discovered and offering to meet with the renter. You should not offer to make an accommodation to a renter who has a disability but should wait for them to request the accommodation. Offering accommodation before it is requested may subject your renter to a claim of discrimination.
Are Your Properties Exempt?
Single-family homes rented without the use of a real estate agent or advertising are exempt from the federal Fair Housing Act as long as the private landlord/owner doesn’t own more than three homes at the time. Apartments of four units or less are also exempt if the owner lives in one of the units. However, even if this multi-family exemption applies to you, your rental advertising must still comply with the Act. Other exemptions include the rental of a single room in a home, qualified senior housing, and housing operated by religious or private organizations if certain requirements are met.
We’re Here to Help
In the end, know that you are not alone. At Real Property Management Prestige, we have highly trained and well-educated staff on hand to work with you on sticky situations like these ones. While you may not necessarily need property management to handle all areas of your rental business when it comes to the federal government and adhering to regulations that can feel complex and rigid at the same time, get help. For more information, contact us or call us directly at 281-532-5455. That is, after all, what we are here for.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.