What Is A Reasonable Modification?
A reasonable modification is a structural change made to existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability, in order to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises. Reasonable modifications can include structural changes to interiors and exteriors of dwellings and to common and public use areas.
Who Can Ask For A Reasonable Modification?
People with disabilities can ask for reasonable modification. A person with a disability is defined as:
- A person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
- Individuals regarded as having such as impairment; and
- Individuals with a record of such an impairment.
*Physical or mental impairment includes, but is not limited to, such diseases and conditions as orthopedic, visual, speech and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, mental retardation, emotional illness, drug addiction (other than addiction caused by current, illegal use of a controlled substance), and alcoholism.
Can A Housing Provider Deny A Reasonable Modification Request?
A reasonable modification request must be reasonable and necessary. A housing provider can deny a request for a reasonable modification if:
- There is no disability related need for the modification; or
- If the request is not reasonable i.e., if the request would pose an undue financial or administrative burden on the housing provider or it would fundamentally alter the nature of the provider’s operations.
If a housing provider deems a request to be unreasonable, it is required to engage in an interactive process with the person requesting the modification to agree upon an alternate modification. A failure to reach an agreement on a modification request is in effect a decision by the provider not to grant the requested modification.
Who Pays For The Reasonable Modification?
The tenant is responsible for paying the cost of the modification UNLESS:
- The housing provider receives federal financial assistance.
Housing that receives federal financial assistance is covered by both the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under regulations implementing Section 504, structural changes needed by an applicant or resident with a disability in housing receiving federal financial assistance are considered reasonable accommodations. They must be paid for by the housing provider unless providing them would be an undue financial and administrative burden or a fundamental alteration of the program or unless the housing provider can accommodate the individual’s needs through other means. Housing that receives federal financial assistance that is provided by state or local entities may also be covered by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Who Is Responsible For Maintenance Of The Modification?
If the modification is used exclusively by the tenant: Tenant is responsible for maintenance and upkeep.
- A tenant installs a lift in her unit to allow access to the second floor.
If the modification is in a common area normally maintained by the housing provider: Housing provider is responsible for maintenance and upkeep.
- A tenant installs a ramp in the lobby of the building that is used by other tenants and the public as well as the tenant with the disability.
If the modification is in a common area not normally maintained by the housing provider: Tenant is responsible for maintenance and upkeep.
- A tenant living in a detached single-family home installs a ramp outside the entrance to the home.
Examples Of Reasonable Modifications
- A tenant with a mobility disability can ask for grab bars to be installed in the bathroom.
- A tenant with a hearing disability can ask for a peephole to see who is at the door before opening it.
- A tenant with a mobility disability can ask to install a ramp.
- A tenant with a disability that affects hand functioning can ask for lever handles to replace doorknobs.