Disability Rights of West Virginia
Housing Accommodations and
Modifications for People with Disabilities
Article by Regina Desmond, DRWV Senior Advocate
Under West Virginia’s Fair Housing Act (FHA), a landlord cannot discriminate against an applicant because of the applicant’s: Race; Color; Religion; Sex; Handicap (disability); Familial Status (presence of children 18 years old or younger, pregnant women, or persons anticipating adoption); National Origin; Blindness; or Ancestry.
Private housing, housing that receives federal financial assistance, and state and local housing with certain exceptions are all protected under the Federal and State Fair Housing Act.
The Federal Fair Housing Act requires accommodation in policies and operations for persons with disabilities if the accommodation is reasonable and necessary to afford persons with disabilities equal opportunity to use and enjoy housing.
A reasonable accommodation is a change, exception, or adjustment to a property rule, policy, practice, or service. Some examples of reasonable accommodations are:
adjusting the date rent is due to correlate with social security;
assigning a lower mailbox;
designating a parking area;
permitting a Service or Emotional Support Animal to live in no-pethousing;
waiving a pet fee and/or security deposit for a Service or Emotional Support Animal;
permitting a live-in Personal Care Attendant to live with a resident who has a disability and might need 24-hour assistance or the waiving of any guest fees or rules due to this need.
Landlords are also required to allow tenants with disabilities to make reasonable access-related modifications to their private living space. A reasonable modification is a structural change made to the premises. In most cases, the landlord is not required to pay for the changes in private living spaces. Tenants need to seek permission prior to completing modifications. Some examples of modifications include:
installing an entrance ramp;
modifying doorknobs to levers for someone with dexterity impairments;
modifying a bathtub so that it is walk-in;
allowing installation of handrails in the restroom.
Owners of housing facilities may also be required to make changes to private living spaces and to common-use areas in buildings constructed after March 13, 1999. Public areas, such as the rental office, meeting room, laundry rooms, etc. should also be accessible if they are open to the public.
DRWV suggests that all requests for accommodations or modification be made in writing.
It is also important to note that just because a tenant requests a specific accommodation or modification, that does not necessarily mean that the request will be approved. It also should not flatly be denied. There should be discussions held about the tenant’s needs and how those needs can be met.
Who pays for a reasonable accommodation?
In private housing, a housing provider/landlord may require that the tenant/resident pay for the cost of the modification and request that funds be set aside to restore the unit to its original condition before the modification (except for reasonable wear & tear). The housing provider may also request that a licensed contractor be obtained to make the modification and/or restoration, if applicable.
Government Subsidized Housing
In government subsidized housing (Section 504, rural development, housing set up for those with disabilities, etc.), the housing provider typically pays for the modification unless it is an undue administrative or financial burden.
If you have questions or concerns about your rights as a tenant with a disability, please call DRWV at 800-950-5250.