WHAT'S THE LAW?
Disability and rental unit modification
: I hear conflicting information regarding what is considered a "disability" in terms of fair-housing discrimination. What is considered a disability?
Answer: From Legal Aid's fair-housing unit: A disability is a physical and/or mental condition that limits a main life activity such as walking, breathing or sleeping, to name a few. Current substance addictions do not qualify as a disability.
Q: Do I qualify for a reasonable accommodation or modification in my rental unit due to my disability?
A: From Legal Aid's fair-housing unit: There is a four-step test to determine whether a tenant qualifies, which is as follows: 1) Am I disabled? 2) Is my request connected to my disability? 3) Do I need my request to use or enjoy my housing? 4) Is my request possible for my landlord -- that is, is the request reasonable, and does it not create an undue administrative or financial burden to the housing provider? If the tenant can answer "yes" to each of the aforementioned questions, then he or she should submit a reasonable-accommodation request.
Q: Who has to pay for a reasonable modification, the tenant or the landlord?
A: From Legal Aid's fair-housing unit: The tenant usually pays for any costs involved with a reasonable modification. Examples of a reasonable modification include but are not limited to: If you need the doorway to your bathroom widened to accommodate your wheelchair, your landlord must allow you to make this reasonable modification; if there are stairs leading to the rental office, mailboxes, swimming pool, etc., your landlord must approve your request to construct a bypass ramp for your wheelchair. Again, the tenant usually pays for the modification, and when you move out the landlord can require you to restore the inside of your home -- if that's reasonable -- to the way it was before the change was made. The landlord may demand an extra security deposit from you to cover this cost.
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii operates statewide. Practice areas include housing, public benefits, consumer and family law but not criminal law. For information, call 536-4302. Submit questions by e-mail to email@example.com
or by U.S. mail to Legal Aid Q&A, 924 Bethel St., Honolulu, HI 96813.