Using Forms to Record Disability-Related Accommodation and Modification Requests

July 20, 2011
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In a Special Issue of Fair Housing Coach, we’ve collected a set of model forms for use in handling reasonable accommodation and modification requests by individuals with disabilities.

Disagreements involving such requests often lead to formal fair housing complaints, so federal fair housing enforcement officials recommend the use of standard policies and procedures to prevent misunderstandings, and in the event of later disputes, to document that the request received proper consideration. Here are some tips from the Special Issue:

Adopt written reasonable accommodation and modification policies. Under federal fair housing law, it’s unlawful for housing providers to refuse a request to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when necessary to afford an individual with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. The law also makes it unlawful to refuse to permit, at the expense of the person with a disability, reasonable modifications of existing premises, if necessary to afford him full enjoyment of the premises. The special issue offers model forms that a community may adapt and use to apprise applicants and residents of its policies and procedures for handling accommodation and modification requests.

Get accommodation or modification requests in writing. An applicant or resident is not entitled to a reasonable accommodation or modification unless he requests one, but the law does not require that the request be made in any particular manner or at any particular time. Communities may ask applicants and residents—or those making such requests on behalf of an individual with a disability—to fill out a standard form, though it’s unlawful to refuse a request simply because the individual makes the request verbally or refuses to fill out your preferred form. The Special Issue suggests model forms to document requests for reasonable accommodations or modifications.

Get proof of disability and need for accommodation in appropriate circumstances. In general, federal law limits the ability of housing providers to obtain disability-related information. When considering a request for a reasonable accommodation or modification, for example, communities may not request additional information when both the nature of the individual’s disability and need for the requested accommodation or modification are known or obvious. On the other hand, if either the disability or the need for requested accommodation or modification is not readily apparent, then the community may verify that a requested reasonable accommodation or modification may be necessary because of a disability. The Special Issue offers a model form that communities may use, in proper circumstances, to verify that a requested reasonable accommodation or modification may be necessary because of a disability.

Provide timely written notice of decisions on disability-related requests. Under HUD guidelines, an undue delay in responding to a request may be deemed a failure to provide a reasonable accommodation or modification. Fair housing experts urge caution when handling requests for unreasonable accommodations or modifications. Depending on the circumstances, communities may offer an alternative accommodation or modification instead of an outright denial. The Special Issue offers a model form to notify applicants or residents about decisions on accommodation and modification requests, though experts advise getting legal assistance in appropriate circumstances, to head off what may otherwise lead to a formal fair housing complaint.

Source: Fair Housing Coach, “Special Issue: Documenting Disability-Related Accommodation and Modification Requests”