If you own a rental property, whether it’s a single-family home or an apartment complex, you have an obligation under both federal and state laws to provide accessibility to renters with disabilities. These laws include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Texas Fair Housing Act.
You may not have to make every living area or unit accessible if no one is requesting it. However, you do have to allow renters to make “reasonable modifications” to your property (both common areas and individual units) so that they’re accessible and usable for them.
Who pays for reasonable modifications?
In some cases, a property owner can require the renter to pay for the modifications (and for their removal when they vacate the property). In other cases, the property owner is required to pay. That’s why it’s crucial to know the law.
Typically, if the modification will make the property compliant with the law, the property owner is required to pay for it. A ramp to enter and exit the property would be an example if the only way in and out is via steps.
If a renter needs a modification that’s not required under the law, they can be required to pay to have it installed and removed. Grab bars in the bathroom might be an example. However, before you make a renter pay to have something removed, don’t assume that the next tenants might not appreciate this and other modifications (or at least not be bothered by them), whether they’re disabled or not.
The more you know about your responsibilities as well as your rights under the law, the less likely you’ll be to find yourself on the wrong end of a legal action. If you have questions about the law (and certainly if you are facing a complaint or lawsuit), you should seek legal guidance.