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Apartment owners may be required to adjust their financial screening to accommodate a prospective tenant with a disability.

The federal Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) requires apartment owners to reasonably accommodate persons with a disability. The Ninth Circuit, disagreeing with the Second and Seventh Circuits, held that this requires apartment owners to take into account the inability of individuals with a disability to generate income by working. In this case, the apartment owner's policy was to require residents to have a minimum gross salary of three times the rent. Because the prospective tenant could not work because of his disability, he did not meet this financial requirement. However, his mother did meet it and offered to pay the rent as a cosigner on her son's lease agreement. The apartment owner rejected the rental application, citing its policy against allowing cosigners on lease agreements.

The Ninth Circuit ruled the FHAA requires apartment owners to make reasonable modifications to otherwise applicable financial requirements, even though this accommodation may result in a preference for individuals with disabilities over otherwise similarly situated nondisabled individuals. The court noted the prospective tenant would have met the financial requirements if still able to work in the position he held before becoming ill and thus a direct causal link existed between the impairment, his inability to work, and his inability to comply with the financial requirement. The Ninth Circuit added that accommodations need not be free of all possible cost to the landlord, although the costs must still be reasonable. The court concluded that allowing the prospective tenant's mother to cosign was a reasonable accommodation. Giebeler v. M & B Assocs., 343 F.3d 1143 (9th Cir. 2003).

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Title Annotation:Ninth Circuit
Publication:Developments in Mental Health Law
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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