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What Reasonable Modification Means for a San Diego Rental Property Owner

San Diego is widely regarded as a paradise-like city in the United States. It has the beaches from Coronado to La Jolla and the laid-back atmosphere of Hawaii while being on the mainland and far cheaper to live. As such, it is an attractive place to live, work, and raise a family – which means it is an excellent place to invest in real estate and find reliable residents.

But it is crucial that you also realize the unique rules and regulations that California has adopted in regards to the rental market. Everyone is familiar with the Civil Rights Act and Americans with Disabilities Act which prohibits property owners from discriminating against people with disabilities. But the rules don’t end there. California has adopted California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) which requires property owners to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.

Basics of Reasonable Accommodations

A reasonable accommodation means a modification to the residential property that increases its accessibility to individuals with various types of disabilities. What particular type of “accommodation” your property manager makes depends on the person with whom you are increasing access. For example, many websites now offer audio versions of the websites’ contents for people who are blind. Additionally, you probably notice that some drive-throughs offer visual assistance for individuals who are deaf.

As applied to landlord-tenant law, a reasonable accommodation is made in two situations. First, the property owner takes proactive steps to address issues, such as installing ramps. Second, and more commonly, a disabled tenant requests an accommodation to make living at the residence more viable for them. You may wonder, why do tenants even need to ask my permission? Most residential leases include clauses which prohibit tenants from making any changes to the residential property or unit. As such, the tenants need your approval to enact any changes or modifications that need to be made to the real estate. 

Typical Modification Requests

As applied to leased properties, the standard accommodations requests usually include:

  • Accommodation in leasing terms to allow seeing-eye animal
  • Accommodation in leasing terms to allow emotional support animal
  • Ramps
  • Favorable parking
  • Flashing lights inside the apartment instead of the “doorbell” ring
  • Safety handles in showers and around toilets
  • Permission to have a live-in caretaker

As you can see, accommodations do not always require physical alterations to your residential property. You can grant accommodation requests by providing variances for people with support animals and allowing live-in caretakers.

How do You Address Modification Applications?

Not every application needs to be adopted in exactly the way requested or even at all. In these situations, it is helpful to have a San Diego property management company to assist you in discerning how you should address specific modification requests.

There are numerous rules regarding reasonable accommodation requests. Therefore, the experience from a property management company can help you not only implement accommodation requests, but also craft standard procedures for addressing them. One of the biggest concerns among rental property owners isn’t that they cannot address the occasional accommodation request, it's that they will accidentally overlook one.The more real estate properties you own, the more difficult it becomes to comply with the rules.

Full-service property management companies are useful because they impose a standard operating procedure that is honed from years of experience. For example, here are four tips to keep in mind if you receive an accommodation request:

  1. When you receive a request make sure you respond in a timely manner, around three to five days. Do not take too long to respond that could be a violation of the FEHA.
  2. If you reject the accommodation request, you must explain why and other steps you are willing to take to assist them.
  3. You aren’t required to introduce every accommodation request; you are allowed balance it against the cost of implementing, the benefit to the resident, and the burden on your other residents (assuming you own a multi-unit complex).
  4. Many rental property owners are sued, not because they refused a request, but because they failed to respond in a timely and sufficient manner.

If you're looking for a residential property management company that can help you avoid FEHA violations, Property Advantage can help you. We help manage rental properties in the surrounding San Diego area including Pacific Beach and North San Diego County. If you're thinking about management services for your property, Property Advantage can help you.

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