In 1990 the Dallas City Council added handicap as an additional protected class to the Dallas Fair Housing Ordinance. Being handicapped includes but is not limited to psychological disorders, emotional and mental illnesses, learning disabilities, persons with AIDS or AIDS Related Complex and recovering drug addicts and alcoholics. If someone is disabled you cannot refuse to rent to them because of their disability.
If you are a housing provider the law also requires you to accommodate a person's disability by changing or modifying a rule or policy or practice when doing so is necessary to give persons with disabilities equal opportunity to use and enjoy his or her unit.
Under the fair housing law a housing provider who has established a no pet policy must allow a disabled resident to keep a service animal as a reasonable accommodation. The housing provider must allow the disabled resident to keep the service animal if three conditions are met. First, the resident must meet the definition of handicap as defined in the fair housing law; second, the housing provider must know about or should have known about the resident's disability and third, the accommodation may be necessary to afford the resident with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling.
Currently the only requirement to be classified as a service animal under federal law is that the animal must be individually trained and must work for the benefit of the person with the disability. There is no requirement as to the amount of training that the animal must take nor is there a requirement as to the amount of work that the animal must do for that resident.
If someone with a disability asks a housing provider to create or designate a parking space for them, generally the law is going to require the housing provider to create or designate the space if three conditions are met. First, the resident must ask for a designated space; second, creating or designating the parking space would allow that resident to live in and fully enjoy the premises; and third, creating or designating the parking space would not create an undue financial or administrative burden for the housing provider.
In processing a parking space request from a resident with a disability, you are entitled to ask for medical evidence that proves the resident has a disability. This does not give a housing provider the right to ask about the nature of the resident's disability but it does give them the right to ask for proof of their disability. Acceptable proof would be handicapped vehicle identification plates or tags or a letter from the resident's doctor, a chiropractor, social worker, or health provider. Once the resident provides proof, the housing provider has a duty to provide a handicap parking space. And if more than one resident with a disability asks for a parking space the housing provider will have a duty to accommodate each request.
A housing provider cannot refuse to rent to someone because of their disability. The law requires that you allow a person with a disability, at their expense, to make reasonable modifications to their unit if such modifications will allow that resident full enjoyment of the premises.
In many circumstances a housing provider may condition approval of the modification on having the tenant establish an escrow fund to pay to have the unit restored to its original condition, reasonable wear and tear excepted, when the tenant moves. The housing provider can also ask for assurances that the modification will be done in a professional manner.
Examples of Reasonable Modifications
The Department of Housing and Urban Development's regulations implementing the Fair Housing Amendments Act give two examples of reasonable modifications.
Example (1). A tenant with a handicap asks his or her landlord for permission to install grab bars at his or her own expense. It is necessary to reinforce the walls with blocking between studs in order to affix the grab bars. It is unlawful for the landlord to refuse to permit the tenant, at the tenant's own expense, from making the modifications necessary to add the grab bars. However, the landlord may condition permission for the modification on the tenant agreeing to restore the bathroom to the condition that existed before the modification, reasonable wear and tear excepted. It would be reasonable for the landlord to require the tenant to remove the grab bars at the end of the tenancy. The landlord may also reasonably require that the wall to which the grab bars are attached be repaired and restored to its original condition, reasonable wear and tear excepted. However, it would be unreasonable for the landlord to require the tenant to remove the blocking, since the reinforced walls will not interfere in any way with the landlord's or the next tenant's use and enjoyment of the premises and may be needed by some future tenant.
Example (2). An applicant for rental housing has a child who uses a wheelchair. The bathroom door in the dwelling unit is too narrow to permit the wheelchair to pass. The applicant asks the landlord for permission to widen the doorway. It is unlawful for the landlord to refuse to permit the applicant to make the modification. Further, the landlord may not, in usual circumstances, condition permission for the modification on the applicant paying for the doorway to be narrowed at the end of the lease because a wider doorway will not interfere with the landlord's or the next tenant's use and enjoyment of the premises.
For more information about your rights and responsibilities under the handicapped provisions of the Fair Housing Law, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website.