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Reasonable Accommodation versus a Modification in Housing Discrimination Cases

Housing.Law.jpgOur New York Fair Housing Attorney counsels clients on potential sticky situations where a tenant in a co-op, condo or apartment building requests a reasonable accommodation or modification due to the tenant’s disability. This can be a difficult process for the tenant/unit owner and the building especially in cases involving therapy dogs/service animals and the payment of a modification or accommodation. It is important get experienced counsel from the outset so you are aware of your rights and obligations. This blog is a continuation of yesterday’s post – part one can be found here. Today, we are going to discuss the concepts of an accommodation and modification requests.

What’s the difference between an accommodation and a modification?

An accommodation is an exception, change, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice of the housing provider. For example, in a building that does not allow any animals, allowing a service animal due to a disability may constitute a reasonable accommodation. If there are any costs associated with providing any accommodations, the cost would be to the housing provider.

A modification, on the other, is a physical change to the resident’s own unit/dwelling/etc. If a change to the structure (for example, removing the tenant’s bathtub to install a wheelchair-accessible shower) is necessary in order for the tenant to use and enjoy the property, the landlord would have to grant the tenant permission to make the modification, however at the tenant’s own cost.

It should be noted, however, that any modifications that are made to common or public areas (such as the condominium pool house, the main entrance to the apartment building, etc.) are considered accommodations and the cost would be to the housing provider or board to make the necessary structural changes.

Possible Penalties and Fines

Under the various laws and regulations, failing to properly address or improperly denying a request for a reasonable accommodation or modification can result in the housing provider or board being hit for counsel fees (which may not be insignificant), fines and penalties in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and may even, ultimately, have to provide the accommodation or make the modification anyway.


So what steps can a housing provider or board take?

Know.Your.Rights.Dollar.Photo.Club.3.9.15.jpgContact our Fair Housing Attorney. We can review and help buildings create clear and fair processes that are in compliance with the various laws and regulations.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding a request for an accommodation or modification, contact us for a confidential consultation at (800) 893-9645.

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