Amanda is a 40-year-old tenant who lives with her husband and daughter in Los Angeles. She has multiple sclerosis and it has progressed to the point that she and her doctor agree she should start using a motorized wheelchair. She asks Mark, her landlord, that she be permitted, at her expense, to install a ramp so that she can access her apartment easily and safely using a motorized wheelchair. Mark agrees but he is concerned that the ramp be installed properly and that it be removed when her tenancy ends.
Amanda turns to the Westside Center for Independent Living. The WCIL staff explain to both Amanda and Mark that while a landlord must permit the ramp modification, the tenant must not only pay for its installation, she must assure that it is done in a “workmanlike” manner. She must also commit to paying to restore the unit to its original condition in the event she leaves the unit. Fortunately for both Amanda and Mark, WCIL has a program called the Housing Assistance Program that provides grants and referrals to licensed contractors for modifications. Together, Amanda, Mark and WCIL reach an agreement for the ramp’s installation and it is installed before she gets the wheelchair.
In analyzing all the rights and responsibilities involved with a reasonable modification, WCIL relied on federal and state fair housing laws that require landlords to allow reasonable modifications for tenants with disabilities. See 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(A), Cal. Govt. Code § 12927(c)(1); Cal. Civ. Code § 54.1(b)(3)(A). A reasonable modification is a structural change made to existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability, in order to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises. Failure to provide a necessary reasonable modification constitutes discrimination. 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(A); 24 C.F.R. § 100.203. In the case of a rental, the landlord may, where it is reasonable to do so, condition permission for a modification on the renter agreeing to restore the interior of the premises to the condition that existed before the modification, reasonable wear and tear excepted. 24 C.F.R. § 100.203 (a). A landlord may condition permission for a modification on the renter providing a reasonable description of the proposed modifications as well as reasonable assurances that the work will be done in a workmanlike manner and that any required building permits will be obtained. 24 C.F.R. § 100.203 (b).