Real Estate

Rent Watch

Can a disabled tenant ask for an exemption from a rent increase?

Q: I am a local property manager. Recently, after a rent increase notice was issued, a disabled tenant submitted a reasonable-accommodation request. Specifically, she asked me not to raise her rent because she is on a fixed income. While I do know times are hard for tenants, my owner is anxious to pass through his increased costs and take advantage of the increase in market rental rates. He wants me to raise everyone's rent, including this tenant's. Under Fair Housing law, do I have to grant this reasonable-accommodation request?

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A: The short answer is "no." A disabled tenant can sometimes request a reasonable accommodation to change how, or even when, the rent is paid. However, he or she is not entitled to ask for a lower rental rate or exemption from a rent increase simply because he or she is disabled -- even though being disabled can sometimes mean the tenant is unable to work and must live on a fixed income.

The granting of a resident's request for any reasonable accommodation depends on whether the request is reasonable. While a housing provider is expected to absorb some expense and administrative inconvenience to accommodate a disabled tenant's needs, the housing provider may decline to grant a reasonable-accommodation request if granting the request would result in an unreasonable administrative or financial burden.

While the notion of what is reasonable is a flexible one that depends on all circumstances, in general, housing providers are entitled to charge whatever rent they deem appropriate for a rental unit, taking into account any local rent-control ordinances. The fair housing laws do not require housing providers to bear the financial burden that would result if they forgo a rent increase.

Resources: nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/renters-rights

Project Sentinel provides landlord-tenant dispute resolution and fair-housing services in northern California, including rental-housing mediation programs in Palo Alto, Los Altos and Mountain View. Call 650-856-4062 for dispute resolution or 650-321-6291 for fair housing, email info@housing.org or visit housing.org.

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