COACH's Pop Quiz!

Q: Could you trigger a fair housing claim for failing to address complaints about secondhand smoke from a resident with a disability?


A: Yes, even in communities where smoking is not restricted, you could face a fair housing claim based on how you respond to a resident’s complaints about secondhand smoke. If the resident meets the criteria to qualify as an individual with a disability under federal fair housing law, then the community must consider requests for reasonable accommodations if necessary to enable the resident to fully use and enjoy the dwelling.

Nevertheless, fair housing law doesn’t require communities to grant a disability-related request if it’s unreasonable—that is, it would impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the community or result in a fundamental alteration of its operations.

For example, a federal appeals court recently ruled that a resident wasn’t entitled to a building-wide smoking ban as a reasonable accommodation for her disabilities. Siding with a Michigan condo community, the court ruled that the resident’s requested smoking ban wasn’t a reasonable accommodation because it amounted to a fundamental alteration of the community’s smoking policy. The resident has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider her appeal.

To learn more, see the July 2020 lesson of Fair Housing Coach, “How Communities Successfully Defend Against Disability Discrimination Claims,” available to our subscribers here.