In the housing context, pursuant to The Fair Housing Act, a reasonable accommodation is a change in a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary to allow a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. Failure to provide a reasonable accommodation may be construed as discrimination. In addition, the Fair Housing Act prohibits a housing provider from refusing to permit, at the expense of the person with a disability, reasonable modifications of existing premises occupied or to be occupied by such person if such modifications may be necessary to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises.
Common examples of a reasonable accommodation would be:
- Allowing a unit owner access to a parking spot that is closer to their unit because of a physical injury;
- Allowing the unit owner to install an elevator lift so that they don’t have to walk steps;
- Allowing the owner to install a device that helps them access the swimming pool.
These installations must be made at the cost of the person with the disability.
It is clear that the intent of the law is to help those with physical disabilities use and enjoy their home.
Now here it where it got confusing for me last week. On the Condo Craze and HOAs radio show, a woman called in and explained that she has cancer and has physical disabilities being able to walk. She is in poor health. The condo has a rule which prohibits smoking on the catwalks. When she smokes on the catwalks the neighbors complain that the smoke is bothering them and they demand she stop. She asked me if the condo can be forced to provide her with a reasonable accommodation which would allow her to ignore the rule prohibiting smoking on the catwalks.
In twelve years, I have answered thousands of calls on the how. However, this call I won’ft soon forget. Here was a woman who has cancer and demands that the condo association change their rules so that she may actually harm her own health and that of her neighbors. I asked her what type of cancer she has. She explained she had a double mastectomy. I asked her what her oncologist thought about her smoking, to which she responded that she has no problems with her lungs.
I never smoked a cigarette in my entire life. The very smell of it sickens me. At that moment however I realized the absolute hold nicotine can have over a person’s life. I actually found the phone call amazing and disturbing.
In any event, I told this woman that I did not believe the condo was under any obligation whatsoever to help her commit suicide. This is not providing a reasonable accommodation in order that she can use and enjoy the dwelling. On the contrary, it would be providing an unreasonable accommodation which would help her die in her dwelling while poisoning the neighbors around her.
I closed the call by telling her that I only wish her a long healthy life, but when she hangs up with me, she should call a professional and get immediate help to kick the habit. I hope she did.