RURAL DEVELOPMENT Rural Rental Housing Meeting5/21/14 Reasonable Accommodations Assistance Animals
Reasonable Accommodations = • Changes, exceptions or adjustments in rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a disabled person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling • Sometimes referred to as “reasonable modifications” if making physical changes
Applicable Laws on RD 515 Projects • Fair Housing Act • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act • Both Laws require reasonable accommodations • Section 504 imposes greater obligations including Housing owners/managers providing and paying for reasonable accommodations that involve physical modifications
Reasonable Accommodations • Who is disabled? • Definition per Housing Act of 1949 • Is expected to be of long-continued and indefinite duration • Substantially impedes his or her ability to live independently, and • Is of such a nature that such disability could be improved by more suitable housing conditions, or if such person has a developmental disability as defined in section 102(7) of Developmental Disability and Bill of Rights Act • Definition per Fair Housing Act • A physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities; or • A record of such an impairment, or • Being regarded as having such an impairment
If No Accommodation Requested • Housing Provider may ask of all applicants: • Applicants ability to meet requirements of tenancy • …BUT can not make judgment if they are able to live independently • If a current illegal abuser or addict of controlled substance • If qualify for housing legally available on a priority basis to person with a disability
Verifying a Disability for Accommodation • May not- • ordinarily inquire as to nature and severity of disability • request documentation on disability or disability related need if disability is obvious or known and need is readily apparent or known • request medical records • May- • Request info necessary to verify person meets disability definition (i.e. SSI or Social Security Disability) • Request description of needed accommodation • Request info that shows relationship between disability and need for accommodation • Verification can come from the individual (SSI, SSDI or credible statement), doctor, medical professional, peer support group, non-medical service agency, or reliable third party in a position to know about individuals disability • For assistance animals, allowed to require verification to come from professional medical or health care provider.
Reasonable Accommodations • It is unlawful to refuse to provide accommodation at the borrowers expense that would NOT: • cause undue financial or administrative burden • fundamentally alter the nature of the providers services -Garbage example
Reasonable Accommodations (Cont’d) • Ensure procedures in place for requesting, documenting and responding to reasonable accommodation requests • Recommend requests and responses be in writing but not required • Ensure hearing impaired or vision impaired receive assistance necessary to afford them access to services (i.e. provide sign language interpreter, large print) • Even if discrimination not intended, possible Civil Rights consequences.
In this instance, the shower would not create a financial or administrative burden. • Providers should generally provide and pay for requested alterations to a unit.
Can a request be denied? • Only if……… • Request not made on behalf of a person with disability • No disability related need for accommodation • Would impose an undue financial or administrative burden on provider • Fundamentally alter the nature of the providers service • Generally reasonable accommodations must be made and paid for by owner/manager
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations • Install a ramp so that an individual who uses a wheelchair can access a unit • A landlord who does not allow reserved parking spots makes an exception to this policy to accommodate a disabled tenant who needs a specific space that is close to their unit • Add grab bars in bathroom • Allow an assistance animal at complex with no pets policy
Defining “reasonable”: • The decision whether the requested accommodation is reasonable or unreasonable, whether providing the accommodation would cause an undue financial or administrative burden, or would cause a fundamental alteration to the providers services lies with the housing provider and would be for the housing provider to defend should a Civil Rights complaint subsequently be filed. Housing providers may wish to consult with their legal counsel prior to denying a request. • Case- by- case basis involving cost, financial resources, benefits to the requester and alternative accommodations that would meet needs • USDA will provide regulation guidance and facts but not opinions (i.e. notify there is x amount in the reserve fund). It is not USDA’s position to define reasonable for the housing provider. • Requests for reasonable accommodations must be handled in accordance with the management plan.
Assistance Animals • Reference HUD FHEO Notice FEHO-2013-01 dated 4/25/13 • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Fair Housing Act treat assistance animals the same • Do not confuse 504/Fair Housing “Assistance Animal” definition with ADA “Service Animal” definition • ADA definition applicable to areas of “public accommodation” (i.e. rental office) • ADA Service animals are only trained dogs (also provision for miniature horse)
Terminology • Various names given to these animals such as: • Assistance animals • Service animals • Support animals • Companion animals • Therapy animals • Emotional support animals • For consistency HUD/DOJ uses “assistance animal” for Fair Housing/504 applicability and “service animal” for ADA applicability • We will focus on “assistance animals” under Section 504/Fair Housing- applies to all RD 515 MFH Properties
Section 504/Fair Housing Assistance Animals • Assistance animals are not pets • Animal that works, provides assistance or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates symptoms
Section 504/Fair Housing Assistance Animals (Cont’d) • Animals perform disability related functions • Assistance animals under Fair Housing/Section 504 can be animals other than just dogs • Animals do not have to be trained or certified
Section 504/Fair Housing Assistance Animals (Cont’d) • Animals perform many disability related functions such as: • Guide blind or low vision individuals • Alert individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds • Provide emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support • Provide rescue or protection assistance • Alerting of impending seizures • Fetching items • Pulling a wheelchair
Housing provider must consider: • Does person seeking to use and live with animal have a disability • Does the person have a disability-related need for an assistance animal?
Verifying a Disability for an Assistance Animal • May not- • ordinarily inquire as to nature and severity of disability • request documentation on disability or disability related need if disability is obvious or known and need is readily apparent or known • Request medical records or detailed/extensive information about physical or mental impairments • May- • Request info necessary to verify person meets disability definition (i.e. SSI or Social Security Disability) • Request description of needed accommodation • Request info that shows relationship between disability and need for accommodation • For assistance animals, allowed to require verification to come from professional medical or health care provider.
Can Assistance Animal be Denied? • Only if…. • Person doesn’t have a disability or disability-related need • Animal causes an undue financial or administrative burden on the housing providers services • Animal would cause a fundamental alteration to the housing providers services • Animal poses a direct threat to health/safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation • Animal would cause substantial physical damage to the property of othersthat cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation
Can Assistance Animal be Denied? (Cont’d) • Health/Safety and Damage determination must be based on individualized assessment relying on objective evidence about actual conduct of that specific animal • Not on speculation or evidence of other animals • Breed, size and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal • Cannot automatically limit number of animals-case-by-case
Pet/Assistance Animal Policies • No fees related to having pets can be applied to assistance animals • Pet deposits, liability insurance, automatic fumigation requirement, etc. • Rules can only be made for assistance animals regarding health/safety/nuisance/damages such as: • Required vaccination records • Proper waste disposal • Quiet enjoyment • Resident can be held liable for damages animal causes
Pet/Assistance Animal Policies (Cont’d) • Typically regular rules that cover health, safety, nuisance/quiet enjoyment, damages which apply to everyone can be applicable to assistance animal issues without need for separate policy • Specific Assistance Animal Policies can be created for a project as long as they only cover health, safety, nuisance, damages
Enforcement Update HADCO Settles on Service Animal Issue The Housing Authority of Douglas County (HADCO) will pay nearly $100,000 to a family which had been wrongly evicted for keeping a service dog in its Reedsport apartment according to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. RaynieCase, whose daughter suffered from life-threatening juvenile diabetes, filed a 2009 disability discrimination complaint with Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries. She alleged that the property manager at Forest Village Apartments demanded she remove a puppy which was in training to help her identify, by scent, dangerous dips in her daughter's blood-sugar levels. "Certain kinds of dogs can be trained to detect and alert when a diabetic's blood sugar levels are dangerously low," the Department of Justice noted in a news release. "Ms. Case obtained a service puppy to live with them while being trained to detect these critical fluctuations. "The girl's previous service dog, Hunter, had been retired after it was diagnosed with a terminal illness. The property manager at the housing authority's Forest Village Apartments, in Reedsport, demanded that Case remove the dog. When Case refused, the manager began eviction proceedings. This was followed by what the Department of Justice described as repeated harassment by on-site maintenance staffers, who questioned the dog's validity as a service animal. The dog did not bond with the girl because of stress in the home, and Case was unable to obtain a replacement, the Department of Justice reported. HADCO, which runs the 24-unit Forest Village complex, agreed to pay $167,000 in damages, which included nearly $100,000 to the Case family and their attorney. HADCO also agreed to pay civil penalties and attorneys' fees to the Department of Justice and Bureau of Labor and Industries. Employees of the housing authority will be required to attend trainings focused on state and federal fair housing discrimination law.
Additional Training Resources • Illinois Dept. of Human Rights Training Videos on Disabilities and Fair Housing • http://www2.illinois.gov/dhr/FilingaCharge/Pages/Fair_Housing_Videos.aspx • HUD Fair Housing Training Webinar 8/20/14 • http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/states/shared/working/r10/fh/training