NY Landlord Barred Tenant’s Use of Motorized Scooter

A tenant sued her landlord for disability discrimination in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. The tenant lived in a ground-floor unit in an apartment complex. Due to multiple disabilities, the tenant used a motorized scooter to get from her apartment's patio door across a lawn to the parking lot. But the landlord couldn't maintain a clear, level path to sidewalks and parking lots and therefore forbade the use of apartment patio doors for coming and going. An insurance agent's report also advised the landlord that the motorized scooter use created liability exposure. The landlord then refused to renew the tenant's lease. The landlord asked the court to dismiss the case without a trial.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York ruled against the landlord. The landlord failed to demonstrate that the tenant's use of her scooter wasn't a reasonable accommodation for her disability, and didn’t show that maintaining a level path to the parking lot would impose undue hardship or a substantial burden on the landlord. The landlord's liability concerns alone were speculative. There also were issues of fact that required a trial. The court needed to determine if the landlord's offer to install a sidewalk was a reasonable accommodation [Timmons v. Kingsley-Johnston, Inc.: Index No. 5:18-CV-1087, NYLJ No. 1605536354 (NDNY; 11/13/20)].