Legal Rights of Disabled Renters in Pennsylvania

For disabled renters, finding an apartment that can fit their needs and allow them to live comfortably can be a challenge. Landlords can also be a sticky component of the process, as many are either ignorant of the law or unwilling to work with disabled tenants – and don’t care about violating federal statute. If you’re suffering from a disability, there are regulations in place through the Americans with Disabilities Act that prevent discrimination and discourage property owners from inquiring too deeply into your everyday limitations.

Is Housing Discrimination Illegal?

It is illegal for a landlord to inquire how severely you’re disabled and to request copies of your medical records. No matter what the property owner’s motives are behind the requests, the law bars this person from deciding where you may live or what residence you may rent based on your physical or mental disabilities. While some disabilities are obvious – amputation or wheelchair bound – others are less so, and it still doesn’t matter. No questions. In the case of mental health disabilities, a landlord can’t refuse to rent to you legally unless there’s documented evidence that your condition carries a history of violence and that you may pose a danger to others living on the property.

Reasonable Modifications for Renting with Disabilities

The law provides you with the leeway to make reasonable modifications to a property to make it suitable for you to live in comfort and to access common areas on the grounds. The law requires the landlord to pay for these modifications, which can range from lowered countertops and special faucets to access ramps and modified kitchen appliances. A landlord may refuse a request that significantly impacts their ability to run their business. In addition, the property owner can deny your request for modification if doing so would make the tenement unsuitable for future renters.

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Proof of Disability for Making Modifications to Rental Property

A property owner can ask for proof regarding the disability, which can take the form of a doctor’s letter attesting to the presence of your reduced functional capacity. This isn’t a sneaky way for your landlord to gain access to your medical records – those are still off limits. The proof is necessary for the property owner to know that a licensed professional agrees that the modification they make to their apartment will make your living situation more comfortable and reduce the risk of your injury. In writing a letter on your behalf, the doctor or therapist does not need to explain your disability or your limitations, only that the action undertaken by the landlord will help you live safer and are appropriate.

Disability Lawyers Serving Philadelphia and Bucks County Residents

If you, or someone close to you, are suffering from a physical or mental condition that doctors expect to keep them from working for at least a year, disability benefits can be a lifesaver. To apply, and maximize your chances for approval, contact an experienced social security disability lawyer at our Pennsylvania offices today for a free consultation. If we don’t recover benefits, there’s no charge for our services so you have nothing to lose in exploring your legal options.   

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