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Reasonable Modification

You can use Reasonable Modification to create more accessible housing in your community

What you need to know

1.  Unless the property received direct federal assistance, cost of the modification falls on the tenant.  NOTE THAT Housing choice vouchers and low income tax credit properties are not direct Federal Assistance.  More on each of them later.  For tenants to afford to make the modifications, many turn to State Agencies, Church and civic groups and to firends and relatives.  Owner has a right to require that modifications be done by professionals and that building and zoning permits are obtained where needed.
2.  Owners may not require that modifications be restored to original condition UNLESS THE MODIFICATION MAKES THE UNIT HARDER TO RENT FOR THE NEXT TENANT.  eg. widening a doorway won't matter to the next tenant but lowering the kitchen cabinets will.  
3.  Low income housing tax credits (used to build affordable housing in many communities) are not "direct Federal Assistance" but many LIHtC properties also do receive funding in the form of HOME and CDBG grants.  Secondary funding to a project, even if only one time, can shit the burden to the property owner-it is worth checking.with OHFA or with COHHIO.
4.  Tenants with Housing Choice Vouchers can work with the PHA and prospective owner to pay exception rents (up to 120% of FMR) to an owner who makes modifications for a person with disabilities.
5.  Many landlords don't know or understand their obligations to permit reasonable modifications.  At a training in Carrollton last year a landlord blurted out-"when a tenant asked me to let them make a modification, I threw him out of the office."  Providers can help owners understand their duties...without a legal confrontation... in order to obtain cooperation.  Using the HUD-DOJ Joint Memorandum on Reasonable Modifications (see attached below)  is a great place to start.

 Steps in the process
Make a plan
1. Talk to your health care professional about your needs. Get suggestions about the types of modifications would help.
2. Figure out how the modifications will be made. Talk to friends, relatives, contractors.  Check with an occupational therapist or Independent Living Center for modification ideas. You can get ideas here.
3.  Figure out how to pay for modifications.

Make the request, engage in the interactive process
1.  Make a written request for a modification. Explain why the modification is necessary (the nature of your disability) and how the modification will solve the problem that prevents you from the full use of the premises. Ask for a written response within 15 days.

2. Be prepared to enter into negotiations with the landlord over the issues like who pays? who will do the work? does the modification require a building permit?

3. When you reach an agreement, get all the details in writing.

Spencer Wells,
Jul 22, 2013, 3:31 AM