Phil Querin Q&A: Reasonable Accommodation and Caregivers

Want access to MHCO content?

For complete access to forms, conference presentations, community updates and MHCO columns, log in to your account or register.

August 28, 2012

Question: A resident wants her son to be her caregiver but lives in a 55 & Older community. The community’s minimum second person age is 45, and the son is 38. Can the landlord ask the resident to complete a "Reasonable Accommodation Form"? Does the son have to fill out a resident application?

Answer: The answer would be the same regardless of whether it is a family park or a 55+ park. This is an issue of making a “reasonable accommodation” under the federal fair housing act. Handicapped persons are members of a protected class. Is the resident “handicapped”? With the various infirmities that can come with older age, there is a likelihood that the resident could qualify as a member of that class. If so, then the landlord should give the tenant a MHCO Request for Reasonable Accommodation form. If everything checks out, granting a “reasonable accommodation” to the community’s minimum age requirement for a second person in a senior park from 45 to 38 is probably not unreasonable. It will not cost the landlord anything. It will not set a “precedent” since federal law requires such concessions for handicapped. All in all, it is a fairly easy solution. Note that I am not commenting on the validity of the request itself. This accommodation is not costly or risky, so the analysis is fairly simple. The harder cases are where the resident wants to bring in a pit bull or other breed with a dangerous reputation; as an “assistance animal,” or the assistance provider, while a relative, has a recent criminal record for violence. If these cases, the landlord has to evaluate the legitimacy of the request, the need to accommodate a “pit bull” or ex-con, versus some other alternative, and the likelihood the resident will contest an outright denial. In this case, I have no problem with having the son fill out an informational form containing contact information, background information and a criminal check. However, since he is not applying for residency, his financial qualifications are irrelevant, since he is there to lend assistance, not pay rent.