The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to grant tenants and prospective tenants reasonable accommodations if needed for a disability. If you're considering asking for an accommodation, here's what you need to know.
Requests Can Be Written or Verbal
Reasonable accommodation requests are often made in writing. Whether it's on a landlord's form or a tenant's stationery, a written request is advisable because it spells out exactly what you need. This also lowers the chances of a misunderstanding, and provides documentation of your request, should you later need it.
Tenants and prospective tenants, however, can also make accommodation requests verbally. If a landlord denies your request or refuses to consider it because you didn't make it in writing, be aware that he's misstating the law.
No Special Procedure Required
The law doesn't require you to request an accommodation in a particular way or using a special form. You just need to make it clear to your landlord that you need a change to a rule, policy, or procedure because you have a disability. It's best to say you need a "reasonable accommodation," but failing to use this term doesn't excuse your landlord from taking your request seriously.
Although not required by law, many landlords have adopted a procedure or created a form for tenants and prospective tenants to use to request reasonable accommodations. If you deal with a landlord who has a procedure or form in place, there's usually no reason not to follow it. Moreover, the fact that a landlord has something in place is good news, because it means he's already familiar with his duty to grant reasonable accommodation requests.
If for whatever reason, you choose not to follow a landlord's procedure or use a landlord's form, the landlord must still consider your accommodation request and grant it if it's reasonable.
If You Need an Accommodation, You Must Request It
The law requires tenants and prospective tenants who need reasonable accommodations to request them. Landlords are not mind readers, and a landlord who attempts to anticipate a tenant's disability-related needs actually risks fair housing violations. If you try to pursue a fair housing claim against a landlord for not making an accommodation that you never requested, you won't meet with success.
But You Don't Have to Make the Request Yourself
If you need an accommodation, the request doesn't have to come from you directly. A family member, friend, roommate, or anyone else you designate can do it on your behalf. Landlords can't insist that you show up personally to sign a form or conduct a phone interview.
Landlords Must Consider Your Requests Promptly
If you need an accommodation for a disability, you probably want it soon. If you're a prospective tenant making a request, you may need to know that your request is granted and the accommodation will be in place before you commit to signing your lease.
Fortunately for you, the law requires landlords to consider reasonable accommodation requests promptly. Sometimes, a landlord may need to get more information before he can grant a request. Such legitimate delays are fine, but a landlord who stalls or ignores requests could face fair housing violations.