MHCO Columns

Fair Housing Pit Falls: Charging Tenants a Fee to Process Accommodations Requests

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Designated parking spaces for mobility-impaired tenants is another frequent source of reasonable accommodations complaints and legal mistakes. Consider this common scenario.

Spot the Discrimination Mistake

A landlord is ready, willing, and able to provide designated parking and other reasonable accommodations for mobility-impaired individuals, provided that those individuals are willing to pay the costs of processing the request.

Pitfall: The ban on charging a fee for granting a requested reasonable accommodation also applies to charging fees or deposits for processing an accommodations request. Requesting processing or administrative fees is a common mistake, especially in the context of parking accommodations that entail monetary costs or additional liability risks to the landlord.

Example: A Pennsylvania senior housing provider had to shell out $80,000 to settle discrimination claims brought by mobility-impaired tenants and fair housing agencies, including for allegedly charging tenants with disabilities as much as $350 for designated parking spaces necessary to make their apartments accessible [Clover Group, May 2020].

Solution: Recognize that if an accommodation is reasonable, you must pay the associated costs out of your own pocket and not charge the requestor a fee or deposit to defray the associated expenses. In addition, you can’t deem a requested accommodation unreasonable simply because it costs time and money to provide.

To reject an accommodation as being unreasonable, the burden must be “undue,” based on the financial resources, the benefits to the requestor, and the availability of cheaper, easier alternatives that would effectively meet the requestor’s needs. Thus, for example, you don’t have to create extra parking spaces or enlarge your parking lot just to accommodate a single tenant.