Reasonable Accommodations for Disabled Persons Requiring Wheelchairs, Walkers, and Canes

Today we assisted a disabled military veteran living outside of Atlanta, Georgia who lived on the 3rd floor of an apartment complex and requested from his landlord that he move to a unit on the first floor to accommodate his physical disability which substantially limited his ability to climb stairs, and walk in general.

The complainant was a retired US Army veteran who suffered physical injuries to his legs during combat from his deployment in Iraq. When the veteran moved into his third-floor unit a few years ago his ability to climb stairs and walk was limited but much better than it was today- his physical condition has deteriorated over the past few years to the point that walking with a cane is a daily necessity. Unfortunately, the veteran thinks a walker or even a wheelchair might be in his near future.

The veteran called Fair Housing Advocates, Inc. to ask if it would be reasonable to ask his landlord to move him from a third-floor unit to a first-floor unit to accommodate his physical disability before the lease on his current unit expired. Making the move would be a lot easier on his knees and would also make it easier to walk his dog through a sliding glass door which had direct access to a courtyard.

A written reasonable accommodation request delivered to the landlord was immediately recommended by Fair Housing Advocates. Since the disabled veteran suffered from a physical disability which substantially limited his ability to walk, it would be more than reasonable to provide the veteran with a first-floor unit. It would also be reasonable to waive any fees, costs, or penalties to move from one unit to another because of his disability. FHA believes a refusal by the landlord to move the veteran to a first-floor unit, when one becomes available, would be a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

In a related matter, FHA met disabled veteran in Georgia who did not need a wheelchair until three months ago. Prior to that, the veteran had an ability to walk, however it was only recent that his physical condition worsened to the point that he now requires a wheelchair. The veteran has been renting the same single family home from a large real estate company over the past two years. The home sits atop a steep hill, and his driveway and walkway to his front door are also steep. In fact, the incline is too steep for him to scale in a manually powered wheelchair. As a result, the veteran is having substantial challenges accessing his own home and also feels there is risk of physical harm to use his wheelchair on a steep hill.
The veteran has requested that he break his lease short of term in light of his recent need to use a wheelchair. The disabled veteran has also requested from his property owner that he not be charged any fees or penalties for breaking his lease because his disability is limiting his ability to use and enjoy his own dwelling.

Fair Housing Advocates, Inc. believes that it would be a violation of the Fair Housing Act to charge the disabled person any penalties for breaking his lease short of term given his physical disability. FHA would assist the disabled person in filing a fair housing complaint if the housing provider refused to break the lease, or charged a penalty for leaving the lease short of term.

If you or someone you know is disabled and needs assistance in the reasonable accommodations process, please reach Fair Housing Advocates, Inc.- we are a nonprofit civil rights organization and we will assist any person, regardless of their household income, for free. To learn more, see our website at, email us at or call us at (877) 838-9963.

Patrick Coleman

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