WHAT'S THE LAW?
Mental ills should not be a rental bar
Question: In all the questions you answered about fair-housing accommodations for people with disabilities, it's always about physical disabilities. What about someone who has a slight disability like my son and needs some occasional help?
Answer: From Legal Aid's fair-housing unit: The fair-housing law bars a landlord from denying rental housing on the basis of mental disability. It also requires a landlord to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services, when the accommodation might be necessary to afford the mentally disabled tenant equal opportunity to use and enjoy the housing. Some examples of accommodating a mental disability include but are not limited to: Mr. T. has a mental disability. He asked his landlady to call his social worker to determine the status of his rent checks. If making the call would enable Mr. T. to keep his apartment, the landlord is required to make the call, as a reasonable accommodation. Jenn suffers from chronic schizophrenia. She was denied housing solely on the basis of a medical evaluation that characterized her as requiring "occasional supervision." Since Jenn could secure that supervision through counseling from a local mental health program that provided 24-hour emergency services, there was no undue burden on the landlord, and the court ruled for Jenn. All types of mental disabilities are covered: mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. The mentally disabled tenant, or the tenant's family members or social worker, should first request a particular reasonable accommodation for the tenant. In the case that a reasonable accommodation is going to cost the landlord more than a negligible amount of money, then the tenant has to offer payment -- unless the apartment is federally subsidized, in which case the landlord must make the payment, unless it is an undue burden.
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 call 527-8024. On the neighbor islands call (866) 527-3247.