What's the law
Disabled tenant may modify residence
I'm disabled, and I saw a lot of stuff in your recent columns about "reasonable accommodations" and "reasonable modifications" if you rent and need some changes to your home. What's the difference between a reasonable accommodation and a reasonable modification?
Answer: From Legal Aid's fair housing unit: If there is some architectural barrier in your home or apartment that creates a hardship for you because of your disability, you are entitled to ask your landlord to modify the barrier so your home is more accessible. If the modification you request is reasonable, which means it will not be an undue hardship on the landlord, then the landlord is legally required to allow the modification. This is called a "reasonable modification." You must pay for the modification, and when you move out your 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 (exception: if your landlord receives federal funding, for example, through Section 8, she must pay for the physical modification, and not you). If you need the doorway to your bathroom widened to accommodate your wheelchair, or you need an elevated toilet or grab bar, your landlord must allow you to make these reasonable modifications. An example of a reasonable modification would be if there are stairs leading up to the rental office, the mailboxes, the swimming pool or to your apartment, your landlord must approve your request to construct a bypass ramp for your wheelchair; or if you have a hearing impairment and have trouble hearing the doorbell, your landlord must approve your request for installation of a flashing light instead of a doorbell. Home buyers with disabilities don't have a legal right to ask the seller to make accessibility modifications. As for a reasonable accommodation, these are generally related to policies, not physical changes to the unit. For example, if your landlord has a "no pets" policy but your disability requires the use of a service animal, this would be a reasonable accommodation.
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