This is the fifth post in our series on Massachusetts housing law. Click the links to read our first, second, third, and fourth posts.
A related topic to our blog post last week is the issue of reasonable accommodations. If you have a mental or physical disability that substantially limits a major life activity, you may require an accommodation to live in your apartment. A reasonable accommodation/modification can be anything from installing a bar on your bathtub or shower to changing a term in your rental agreement. As such, the laws require the further step of landlords taking affirmative actions to provide reasonable accommodations/modifications.
Housing discrimination is illegal under several different federal and state laws. Under these laws, it is illegal to: discriminate in refusing to rent or sell property, discriminate in the terms or conditions of a rental or sales agreement, or otherwise make housing unavailable to members of protected classes. Protected classes include sex, physical or mental disability or handicap, receipt of public assistance, and receipt of a housing subsidy. In addition, individuals with physical and mental disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations in any housing transaction. One type of disability discrimination prohibited by the Fair Housing Act is the failure to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodations are necessary to afford a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.
How do you make a request for a reasonable accommodation/modification? There's no set formula for requesting a reasonable accommodation or modification. However, as with many things, it is best to make the request in writing so that you can later show your housing provider knew of the request and so that you are both on the same page as to what you are requesting.
If you're looking to rent a new apartment, you may be wondering to yourself: can my landlord or property manager ask me about my disability? Can the landlord ask me if I'm handicapped? Can the landlord ask me whether I'm on any medications?
If you’re a prospective tenant looking to rent an apartment, a landlord may not ask you (either in person or on the rental application) whether you have a disability; whether anyone living with you has a disability; if you’ve ever been in a detox program for an alcohol or drug dependency; if you currently take, or have in the past taken, prescription drugs; or if you are able to live independently. There are some instances where a landlord may ask you questions relating to a disability, such as if you are a current user of illegal drugs. Also, if a landlord makes all or some of its housing available to disabled individuals, the landlord may ask questions of the applicant to see if you qualify. Additionally, if you do request a reasonable accommodation, the landlord may ask you for documentation that you have the disability and need the accommodation.
How can the Law Office of Thomas R. Davis help you?
If you have a housing issue, the Law Office of Thomas R. Davis is here to help.
Call us any time at (617) 431-3887 for a free, no obligation attorney consultation. You can also schedule a free 60 minute consultation online at www.thomasdavislaw.com. We are here to provide you with the quality representation you deserve.