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Fair Housing, Rental Payments and Disability: One Size Does Not Fit All

Rent is due on the first and late on the second. And we don’t make any exceptions because of the Fair Housing Act, correct? Well, not exactly.The Fair Housing Act actually requires us to consider requests for exceptions based on the protected class of Disability.

Must we consider and approve a request for a different rent due date based on someone’s disability? In certain situations, yes!

The most common situation is when a person with a disability (PWD) requests a due date other than the first of the month because their only source of income is from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which arrive later than the first of the month. Does this meet the test?

The Fair Housing Act requires us to approve any request that meets the definition of “reasonable”, and if the request does not meet the definition, we are required to offer any reasonable alternative that exists. So the first question we must answer is, “How does the Fair Housing Act define reasonable”?

HUD defines “reasonable” as anything that would not impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider or would not fundamentally alter the nature of the provider’s operations. HUD also requires the housing provider to make the determination about a request being reasonable on a case-by-case basis; in other words, no “one size fits all” rules here!

The next question we must answer is whether setting a rental due date other than the first of the month will create an undue financial and administrative burden or fundamentally alter the nature of our operations? For most of us, the answer is “No”.

So, consider this typical scenario: A resident becomes disabled during the term of their lease, is unable to work and applies for SSDI benefits. The resident is approved to receive benefits, which will be paid on the 15th of each month. The resident asks you to change their rental payment due date from the first of the month, as specified in their current lease, to the 15th of the month, since that’s when the resident’s SSDI check arrives. Do you approve the request?

For most of us, the answer is “yes” since allowing this resident to pay on the 15th will not create a burden or change our operations. But remember, we can’t create a “blanket” policy about this (or any other disability-related) request – each one must be considered on its specific facts and unique circumstances.

Since I’m not an attorney, I can only offer industry best practices, not legal advice. For more information about reasonable accommodations, speak to your fair housing attorney or visit the HUD website here. Hope this helps!

Are you attending the NAA Education Conference? Join me and two of my favorite fair housing attorneys, Terry Kitay and Kathi Williams on Friday, June 26 at 2:15 for our session, “Fair Housing CSI: Deconstructing Disability Disasters to Avoid Repeating Them!”.

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