Whether your renters disclose they have a disability (visible or invisible), most property owners will eventually encounter people with disabilities as investors. This means you to be aware of everything from how you post property listings to whether or not your website is accessible!
The federal Fair Housing Act protects individuals with disabilities who are applying to rent properties, creating a process by which they can get what they need to live comfortably in their future homes. Property owners cannot discriminate against them in the application process, and great property owners will want all the tools possible to prevent such discrimination.
Thankfully, an expert Norfolk property management company like Renters Warehouse can help you navigate the Fair Housing Act—and work to provide robust housing options to all qualified applicants to your properties.
Whether your property is located in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Newport News, or elsewhere in the Hampton Roads metro area, here's some insight into how to manage your Norfolk rental property concerning disabled renters.
Foreword: While we are experts in Norfolk, this blog is not legal counsel. If you need live support, get in touch with the Rent Estate™ Advisors at Renters Warehouse!
Understanding Legal and Illegal Inquiries
While it might be tempting to ask a person if they have a disability to provide the correct accommodation process, asking questions pointedly when you believe someone may have a disability can be the start of illegal discrimination! Instead, creating a renter application that asks all applicants a range of acceptable questions is a safe way to ensure you're providing accommodations when needed.
- For instance, some properties are designed explicitly for individuals with particular kinds of mobility challenges, and it is acceptable to ask all applicants for that property whether they meet the qualifications for the unit.
- You can also move forward with an accommodation process if your applicant discloses a disability without you prompting them and requests accommodation directly.
- Otherwise, you want to make sure that your approach doesn't presume who has a disability or a need for accommodation.
Treating everyone equally and waiting until there is a reason to move forward can protect you as a Norfolk area property owner. Another alternative is leaving the placement process for your single-family or multi-family rentals in the hands of a Norfolk property management team.
Your Applicant May Need Accommodations: How to Proceed?
So let's say you have a qualified renter who has also requested a particular accommodation in order to live in your Norfolk rental property. These accommodation requests can range in impact, from something as simple as permission to mail a rental payment rather than delivering it in person to needing a particular size of parking space.
The request is the first step of the process, and the next step is to determine two critical factors:
- Is the request related to a documented disability?
- Is the request too much or too impactful to be considered a reasonable accommodation?
For example, if making a particular accommodation would result in high costs or overwhelming administrative work for the property owner (such as a serious structural overhaul), there may be grounds to deny the request as not reasonable.
In such cases, the Department of Housing and Urban Development sets out a process by which the renter and the property owner come to a compromise that both satisfies the needs of the renter and avoids undue hardship for the owner. When in doubt, leave this process in the hands of your skilled Norfolk property management group!
Modifications and Evaluating What's Reasonable
The case-by-case nature of reasonable accommodations makes it a very good idea to become familiar with protected housing classes and the common accommodations related to them.
For instance, an area that might surprise you is the ability of renters to modify the property to make it more accessible to them, provided they are willing to change the property back to its original state upon their move-out. They do this using money placed in escrow to guarantee their plan.
The design of such laws is to make accessible housing possible for individuals with disabilities while also protecting property owners from experiencing the resulting costs. Approach these conversations with an open mind, and work toward flexibility to be able to serve your residents well.
Talk With Your Property Manager for Guidance!
If you're nervous about accidental discrimination that may violate the Fair Housing Act, working with a Norfolk property management professional can provide peace of mind.
Property managers work with disabled residents all the time, so they're aware of the process and work hard to maintain a fair environment. When the process goes well, you gain a renter who appreciates the work you've gone through together to make their living situation a safe and comfortable one.
However, taking advantage of these types of skills requires securing the best property management team—no matter where your property in Norfolk is located!
How do you know you're working with the best property management provider? We made it easy to tell! Download your free copy of our Guide to Finding the Best Property Management Company in Hampton Roads, Virginia, to get started!