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You can ask your landlord to make reasonable accommodations (changes) if their policies or rules are making the symptoms of your disability worse to the point that you are unable to live in or use your home (this includes common areas and other amenities associated with the home or property).
Do you need changes to your landlord’s policies because a disability related reason is making it so you can’t use your home (or the place you need to move to)?
- Giving you trouble about your support animal.
- Not letting you break your lease even though you can no longer stay there because of a disability.
- Charging you late fees even though you have to pay your rent on a different day because you get social security.
- Not letting you move to a downstairs unit when you are unable to safely use the stairs or there are regular issues with an elevator.
Housing providers (like landlords) have to make reasonable accommodations (changes) to their policies and rules so people with disabilities can use and enjoy their housing like any other person. This means that you can ask for a change to a rule or policy if there is a disability-related reason that the rule or policy is stopping you from using and enjoying your home (or is going to make the home unavailable to you). These requests must also be necessary and reasonable.
More information on accommodations:
The change in policy must be necessary. In other words: without the change in policy or rule, you would be unable to continue living independently in the home of your choosing. For example:
- You cannot walk upstairs because of your disability but your apartment is upstairs. This means that you cannot leave to go to all of your doctors appointments, to get groceries, or to see family. Or you may be forced to stay somewhere else because it is not safe for you to use the stairs. But your landlord has refused to let you move downstairs.
- You have cancer and need help from family or friends that do not live near you. You need to move to be closer to them, however you will not be able to secure new housing if you have to pay the landlord thousands of dollars in addition to two months of rent to terminate your lease.
The change in policy must be reasonable. The change requested cannot cause an undue financial or administrative burden or cause a fundamental alteration to what is offered. For example:
- The landlord-provided refrigerator in your home is broken and does not keep your medication cold enough. Refrigerators/freezers provided by the landlord cost $700. Requesting a brand new, top of the line, Bluetooth-enabled smart refrigerator that costs thousands of dollars more than the standard refrigerator is likely going to cause an undue financial burden.
Below are some examples of how a landlord’s policies and rules could impact you.
- Support animal: You need your support animal to help calm you down, but your landlord will not allow the animal on the property.
- Break lease: Where you live now you can’t get the help you need for things like paying your bills, cleaning, working, engaging in daily life activities, etc., but your landlord is requiring you to stay for the full duration of your lease.
- Late fees: You get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and your landlord is charging late fees because you do not get paid until the 5th of the month.
- Move downstairs: You have trouble walking because of a disability and you need to live on the first floor, but your landlord is not letting you move to a downstairs unit.
How to ask for a reasonable accommodation
If you want to ask your landlord for a reasonable accommodation, you need to submit your request in writing. And, if you can, include supporting documentation with your request.
Ask in writing
Ask for the accommodation in writing so there is a record of the request. You can submit your request via letter, e-mail, or text. Make sure you explain the following in your request:
- That you have a disability.
- How your disability impacts your ability to perform regular life activities, like walking, paying bills, sleeping, caring for yourself, cleaning, working, etc.
- What policy you are asking the landlord to change and how the request is connected to your disability.
- You need the accommodation or you will not be able to use and enjoy your home.
- Ask for a written response within a specified time (generally, 14 days unless it is an emergency).
Provide supporting documentation
We recommend that you include supporting documentation, like a letter of support, from someone that understands the situation. A letter of support could come from:
- A doctor, medical or mental health provider.
- A therapist or case worker.
- Someone else who understands the situation.
If you can’t get a letter of support or other supporting documentation, you can still send your request; however, understand that the landlord can ask for documentation that explains the disability-related need for the accommodation.
After you send the request
Once you send the request, your landlord should do one of the following:
- Grant the request (say “yes”).
- Deny the request (say “no”).
- Ask for more information.
Can a landlord say “no?”
A landlord may deny an accommodation request (i.e., say “no”) if:
- you do not need the accommodation to use and enjoy your home,
- granting the accommodation would cost them too much money or time (also known as “undue financial or administrative burden”), or
- granting the accommodation would make them change the nature of what they do (also known as “fundamental alteration”).
However, even though they can say “no,” this should not stop you from asking for an accommodation.
What if my landlord says “no,” does not respond, or retaliates?
If your landlord denies your request, doesn’t respond to your request, or retaliates against you, you can file an administrative complaint or file a lawsuit.
File a complaint
You can file an administrative complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Texas Workforce Commission’s Civil Rights Division, or in some cities, with the city itself. These government agencies investigate complaints of discrimination and may be able to help you resolve the issue through informal negotiations with the other side.
You have one year from the date of the discrimination to file an administrative complaint. For more information on how to file administrative complaints, see Filing a Complaint: Possible Discrimination in Housing.
File a lawsuit
You can file a lawsuit in State or Federal Court. If you want to file a lawsuit, you should find an attorney immediately. You only have two years to file a lawsuit under the Fair Housing Acts.
For more information and resources related to this topic, see:
- Ending Discrimination in Housing: Fair Housing Laws
- Eviction and Reasonable Accommodations
- Letter to Landlord to Request Early Lease Termination
Published: September 11, 2023
Updated: January 5, 2024
Publication Code: HS20
Disclaimer: Disability Rights Texas strives to update its materials on an annual basis, and this handout is based upon the law at the time it was written. The law changes frequently and is subject to various interpretations by different courts. Future changes in the law may make some information in this handout inaccurate.
The handout is not intended to and does not replace an attorney’s advice or assistance based on your particular situation.
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