Online Tenant's Guide: Reasonable Accommodation

You may file a request with your landlord for reasonable accommodation to use and enjoy your rental unit. A disability is defined legally as, "any physical or mental condition that substantially limits a person’s major life activities".

It is ALWAYS okay to ask for accommodations and it is ILLEGAL for landlords to punish or evict you for requesting reasonable accommodations or modifications. The disability doesn't have to be permanent; a broken leg will heal eventually, but it doesn’t mean that life isn't harder in the meantime.

The only basis in which landlords can flat-out deny a request is if it seriously impacts the landlord's ability to do business. The legal definition of this phrase is murky at best, but the best way to think about it is to ask yourself, “Does this accommodation fundamentally change my landlord’s job?” For instance, would allowing you to keep a service animal turn your landlord into a dog walker? (The answer to that question is usually no.) Reasonable accommodations is an area of the law where things are written to help you get what you need, so don’t be afraid to ask!

If you feel that you have been retaliated against for requesting reasonable accommodations, fill out the Tenants Together Retaliation Sample Letter with your situation and provide it to your landlord as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, you must pay for physical modifications for your requested accommodation; however, there are some situations when the landlord receives some federal financial assistance. Landlords may also require that the unit be restored to its original condition at the end of tenancy.

Process for Requesting Reasonable Accommodation
  1. Write a written request to your landlord.
    • Within this request, you must provide documentation of the disability and disability-related needs (such as a letter from a doctor or therapist).
    • However, a landlord cannot ask a tenant to prove their disability or insist on unreasonable amounts of proof.
    • Tenants Together have created a sample letter that can be used to make these requests to a landlord. You should send letters to your landlord via certified mail.
  2. Your landlord must respond quickly and engage in an "interactive process". If they do not respond, you should file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
  3. You and your landlord then write and sign a statement formalizing the accommodation.

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