WHAT'S THE LAW?
Disabled tenant has right to parking
Question: I have a friend who rents an apartment where there are more units than parking spaces. My friend has a physical disability that limits walking (and a disability parking placard). Can the landlord be forced to rent my friend a stall even though it is not in the lease?
Answer: From Legal Aid's fair-housing unit: The answer to this question is yes, assuming the following criteria are met: 1) The disability needs to be relevant to the reasonable accommodation requested, and 2) The severity of the disability should be such that the accommodation is warranted.
In the situation described, it would appear both criteria are met. The tenant should get a letter from his/her doctor with an explanation of the disability and reason the disability would necessitate a parking space. The tenant should submit this letter and a written request for the accommodation to the landlord. If the landlord refuses the accommodation, the tenant has legal recourse.
In the event that the landlord refuses to grant the accommodation, and in terms of practical matters and the shortage of affordable housing in Hawaii, if the degree of disability is such that the tenant can wait until a space opens due to another tenant moving out, this would be advisable (assuming there is tenant turnover and the disabled tenant would not have to wait more than a few months).
It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant or to not renew a lease based on a request for a reasonable accommodation, but this can and does happen. When the tenant's lease ends, the landlord might choose not to renew it and provide a false but plausible reason for doing so.
In the case where a tenant encounters a landlord who refuses to provide the reasonable accommodation, the tenant should weigh the need for the accommodation with the possibility of a lease nonrenewal. In this case the law is on the side of the tenant and of granting the accommodation.
April is National Fair Housing Month. If you have any questions about your fair-housing rights or feel that your fair-housing rights have been violated, please call the Fair Housing Enforcement Program at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii: on Oahu, 527-8024, on the neighbor islands, (866) 527-3247.