HUD Charges Georgia Property Owner With Disability Discrimination For Failure To Approve A Reasonable Accommodation Request Related To The Rental Due Date

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Here is a fact pattern professional apartment management should work to avoid. An applicant signs a lease for an apartment home. Rent is due on the first of the month. As is typical in many residential leases, late fees are due if the rent is not paid after a few days. The resident is disabled and receives a disability check later in the month (but the check indeed comes each month). He asks the leasing office for a reasonable accommodation – specifically to change the date his rent is due to match when his monthly disability check arrives. The request was made orally. For a few years, there is no problem. The apartment is then sold and new management takes over. New management starts assessing late fees. After quite a bit of back and forth, including the late charges, the new management company moves to evict the resident.

I did not make up the above fact pattern. This is taken from a formal charge of discrimination filed by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) against a Georgia property owner/manager earlier this week. Now, I know there are always at least two sides to every story and I make no judgment on the facts here. I just want to note that if you have a resident with a disability and he/she receives a regular monthly disability check (even if the check arrives later in the month), if the resident seeks a reasonable accommodation to change the due date of his/her rent owing to the date the disability-related check is received, you might want to reach out to a lawyer like me before denying that request. I suspect management will defend this case by arguing that this reflects a financial accommodation (not necessarily required under the law) as opposed to a reasonable accommodation related to the disability (which is likely required under the law).

I get that the accounting is not clean and a rent ledger can look askew with rent paid, for example, on the 10th of every month. But, in the circumstance of a disabled resident receiving a monthly disability check used to pay rent, moving his/her due date in response to a reasonable accommodation request can potentially avoid exposure such as faced here by this property owner.

Just A Thought.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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