Fair Housing vs. Unfair Housing

Do you know the difference?

Knowing the difference between fair housing and unfair housing isn't as obvious as you might think. This blog aims to present a variety of important and interesting fair housing issues.

If you're an apartment professional, avoid costly mistakes by reading the stories of others who — even with good intentions — learned compliance lessons the hard way. (For the easy way, click here.)

If you live in an apartment, get familiar with your rights when it comes to housing discrimination, as well as your options for seeking justice.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Landlord May Take a Bath for Refusing to Allow Modification of One

After refusing to let a tenant modify her bathroom to make it more accessible, a Brooklyn, New York landlord has finally come clean. But the delay was costly, as the landlord now faces $80,000 in damages for the alleged harm he caused by taking nearly two years to grant the tenant's reasonable modification request under the Fair Housing Act.

The tenant, who suffered from emphysema, heart disease, sciatica, and rheumatoid arthritis, had requested a walk-in shower to replace the bathtub. She explained in numerous letters to the landlord that she needed the modification for her disability. As The New York Post reported, United Cerebral Palsy agreed to install the more accessible shower for free, and so the replacement would cost the landlord nothing.

As the landlord continued to ignore the tenant's requests, she reportedly often had to travel from her third-floor walk-up several blocks to bathe at her daughter's house. When finally reached for comment, the landlord pointed out that the tenant doesn't pay much for her rent-controlled apartment, and suggested she move to a nursing home.

An administrative law judge didn't buy it. On September 25, the judge ordered the landlord to pay a $50,000 penalty plus $30,000 to the tenant for her mental suffering, and to install the requested shower at the landlord's own expense.

When the tenant returned home from a hospital visit recently, she found the shower she had requested. Although this incident may one day become water under the bridge, this landlord isn't likely to forget that federal law requires landlords to consider requests that disabled tenants make for modifications to their apartments, and then grant them if they're reasonable.

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