Monica is a tenant in Santa Monica, California who uses a wheelchair. Her unit was deed-restricted for affordability. Whenever she attempted to enter her building from the oceanfront walkway, her key fob unlocked the large front door for only a few seconds. She was not able to reach the door in time and even if she could, she would have to pull it open or have a passerby open it for her. From the inside, she had to push the door open, which is difficult and awkward in a wheelchair. She resigned to always use a back entrance.
As she was getting help from the Santa Monica City Attorney's Office (CAO) regarding a needed parking accommodation, Monica showed city staff the difficulties she had with the front door. The CAO then negotiated with the landlord to hire a technician to extend the time the door remains unlocked, and also to install a push-button wall switch on the inside. Since the unit was deed-restricted for affordability, the CAO also persuaded the landlord to pay the costs of the installation.
Monica and the CAO 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. § 100.23. See also 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(b), Cal. Govt. Code § 12927(c)(1); Cal. Civ. Code § 54.1(b)(1).