N.M. Landlord Accused of Denying Disabled Tenant’s Accessibility Requests

HUD recently charged a rental housing owner in New Mexico with unlawfully refusing to grant reasonable modification requests to a resident with a disability. The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from refusing to let tenants, at their own expense, make reasonable modifications to a rental property, as well as from refusing to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services.

According to HUD’s charge, the resident had no disability when he initially rented the unit, but he later developed a serious medical condition that made it necessary for him to use a wheelchair. Allegedly, the resident asked the owner for permission to install a ramp, remove a shower door, install a higher toilet, and lower the kitchen sink. In requesting the modifications, the resident claimed that he assured the owner that all the work would be performed by licensed contractors and that if the owner wished, the resident would pay to return the unit to its original condition when he eventually moved out.

Allegedly, the owner approved the ramp, but denied the other modifications. When he asked the owner to reconsider, the resident said that the owner withdrew a prior offer to renew his lease and terminated his tenancy because of his disability and in retaliation for his requests to make modifications.

“At some point, a person with disabilities may need to make a modification to his or her home to make it livable,” Mark Brezina, HUD Regional Administrator, said in a statement. “The Fair Housing Act says that if the modification is reasonable and the person is willing to pay for it, a landlord can’t deny it.”

The HUD charge will be heard by an administrative law judge unless a party elects to have the case heard in federal district court.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice