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Public Rights Division

Equal Access to Housing

It’s illegal for a building owner to refuse to sell, rent, or lease housing to a person because of that person’s disability – or to claim that housing is not available when it is available. Owners must use the same criteria for selecting all tenants.

What constitutes discrimination?
If a housing applicant has a disability, the following may be illegal acts of discrimination:

     • The owner refuses to rent on the same terms offered to others
     • The owner refuses to grant the applicant’s request for a reasonable accommodation that would allow him or her to live in a unit and enjoy it fully. (The applicant may request an accommodation in the application phase, during tenancy, or in the context of eviction.)
     • The owner refuses to allow the applicant to make reasonable changes to the unit.

What questions are okay – and not okay?
A landlord may ask a tenant about the disability if the tenant requests a reasonable accommodation. The tenant doesn’t have to tell the landlord the specifics of the disability or give her a full copy of the medical history. The tenant only needs to provide proof that he has a disability, and that an accommodation is necessary to provide full use and enjoyment of the unit. (It may be helpful for the tenant to explain specifically why the accommodation is needed.)

The type of information the tenant provides depends on your situation. It can come from a doctor, another medical professional, or a service agency.

A landlord may not ask:
            “Do you have a disability?” 
            “How severe is your disability?” 
            “May I have permission to see your medical records?”

When are reasonable accommodations required?
After a tenant moves in, the landlord must make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, and services to give equal opportunity to occupy and enjoy full use of a dwelling unit or common space. Landlords must also permit apartments to be made accessible to persons with disabilities, at the tenant’s expense, if the modification is reasonable and necessary to afford the tenant full enjoyment of the unit. The tenant must also agree to pay reasonable costs of restoring the premises to its original condition after the renter leaves. (The landlord may require the tenant to deposit in escrow a reasonable amount to cover that cost.)

Examples of reasonable accommodations

     • A tenant fails to pay rent on time due to a medical condition. The landlord agrees to accept the rent two weeks later.

     • A landlord accommodates a tenant with a mobility impairment by granting a closer parking space to the dwelling unit.

For more information about housing rights of persons with disabilities, call the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office at 310-458-8336 (voice) or 310-458-8696 (TTY).

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