Over on the ApartmentAssoc Yahoo Group an owner asks:
The person who would occupy the second floor apartment is older, and I have no real accommodation for mobility issues… is there a polite / legal way to ask before hand since I wouldnt be able to put them in once the person is there (( is there a list / guide to requirements in this regard ? )).
You should make sure the applicant understands what they are renting ‘This is a second floor apartment’ , but not is a tone to discourage them from renting. Obviously you cannot say ‘I think you are too old to climb our steps.’
As far as accessibility modifications, in general you are required to permit the reasonable modifications but are not required to pay for the modifications in pre 1991 housing. You can require the tenant at the time of move out to restore it to how it was prior to adding the accessibility modifications. However in most cases doing so would be foolish as you the mod could be a high demand attribute that would make your unit more desirable to other tenants with similar needs.
Apartments built or substantially modified after 3/1/1991 are required to meet the ADA standards. If that standard was not met during construction, the owner must update it to the ADA requirements. Of course you may be able to sue the builder to pay for it. 😉
You are required though to make reasonable accommodations, which is different than reasonable modifications. An example is assigning a parking spot closer to the door for a person with mobility issues if they request this.
One reasonable accommodation request that many owners get wrong – if a person is on SSI due to a disability and therefore receives their check on a day other than on the first, you must modify their rent due date and not charge late fees. [Case]
When you decide it is up to you to determine what may or may not work out for a prospective tenant is when you get in trouble.
There is a Fair Housing case from La Crosse where a landlord refused to rent to a single mom because the property had a long drive that was the tenant’s responsibility to shovel, which the landlord felt would be difficult for her to do. The landlady’s attempt to take it upon herself to determine what would or would not work for the tenant cost the landlady $15,000 plus I’m sure some costs. The right thing for the landlady to do would have been to point out to every prospective tenant that shoveling the driveway was their responsibility and failing to do so was a lease violation.
There are countless cases of owners who got in trouble for restricting families with children from living on the second floor, or living next to the pool. The former being for the convenience of the other tenants and the latter being out of fear of children drowning. Neither are legitimate reasons within the confines of Fair Housing.