Lauren is a tenant in Santa Monica, California who has a chronic respiratory illness. Her medical condition has made it increasingly difficult to navigate the stairs. She wants to move to a vacant first-floor apartment in the same building. Lauren's current second-floor apartment is rent-controlled, and she wants to make sure her rent stays the same.
An investigator from the Santa Monica City Attorney's Office contacted the landlord on Lauren's behalf. The landlord was open to the change of units but was concerned about the costs involved as well as how the switch would affect the rent-control status of both units. The Santa Monica City Attorney's Office negotiated an agreement between Lauren and the landlord that allowed Lauren to move to the first-floor unit while maintaining her controlled rent, and required her to pay some of the costs involved in preparing the new apartment for occupancy.
Lauren and the Santa Monica City Attorney's Office relied on federal and state fair housing laws that require landlords to make reasonable accommodations to tenants with disabilities. See 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(b), Cal. Govt. Code § 12927(c)(1); Cal. Civ. Code § 54.1(b)(1). "A reasonable accommodation is a change in a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary to allow a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling." 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f); see also Giebeler v. M & B Associates, 343 F.3d 1143, 1147 (9th Cir. 2003).