Reasonable accommodation is a Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) term not an ADA term.
When an owner claiming a disability makes a request for reasonable accommodation and the person's disability is obvious, the association cannot request additional information about the existence and validity of the disability. When the disability is not obvious, the association can request information verifying that:
- The person is disabled,
- There is a need for the requested accommodation, and
- There is a relationship between disability and the requested accommodation.
A modification under the Fair Housing Act is distinct from an accommodation. The Fair Housing Act does not provide a definition for a "modification", but regulations promulgated by HUD define modifications as "any change to the public or common use areas of a building or any change to a dwelling unit". Claims for reconstruction or renovation to a dwelling are actionable under the reasonable modifications section of the FHA, and not the reasonable accommodation section.
Discrimination under the Act includes "a refusal to permit, at the expense of the handicapped person, reasonable modifications of existing premises occupied or to be occupied by such person if such modifications may be necessary to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises The statute also makes unlawful any "refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling".
The failure by a board to make a reasonable accommodation when an appropriate request has been made, can result in costly litigation for the association. Board members should consult with legal counsel when a resident makes a request for a reasonable accommodation before refusing to comply.