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Fair housing and maintenance--timing is everything.

MAINTENANCE PROFESSIONALS, consider: Today you have five work orders. Which resident's order is completed first?

Well, you should have a written policy that answers that for you--perhaps based on the type of work order, when it was received or the time that will be required to address the problem or situation. But whatever your policy may be, here is what you need to know: If a person with a disability (PWD) needs (not wants, but needs) their work order addressed ahead of others, you likely will have to do that. This is called a "reasonable accommodation" and it is required of you under the Fair Housing Act for any PWD.

Let me illustrate ...

It is hot, muggy and miserable, and you have five work orders to repair AC units. You would normally fix each AC in the order in which you received the work orders. Everyone is anxious and cranky from the heat and you are overwhelmed--both by the temperature and the work.

Then, the last resident to put in a work order informs you that their child has cystic fibrosis, which affects that child's breathing ability. The oppressive heat is now making it even more difficult for them to breathe.

Guess what? That resident has a child who is a PWD and now you have the legal obligation to fix that resident's AC first, despite your "first come, first served" policy regarding work orders. This is the reasonable accommodation mandated by the law.

There are many parallels. For example, you will likely need to adjust your snow-removal sequence to first clear the walkway of a PWD who uses a wheelchair, or prioritize a simple toilet repair--even if there are multiple bathrooms in the residence--when a PWD who uses a wheelchair cannot get into the bathroom with the operable toilet. And don't forget about the PWD who has certain sensitivities and cannot be exposed to traditional paints, solvents, extermination chemicals or cleaning sup-plies--another type of reasonable accommodation altogether.

Timing is everything! It's all about getting your priorities in the right order--and in the case of reasonable accommodation, that may require a re-order.

Editor's note: This is the second of four Maintenance Insider columns that will focus unfair housing issues. Next month: Should you take special precautions when completing a work order for a resident with AIDS?

Nadeen Oven is Senior Counsel with For Rent Media Solutions. The information contained in this article, which originally ran as a blog on, is not to be considered legal advice, and the author and FRMS strongly suggest that you consult with your own counsel as to any fair housing questions or problems.
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Title Annotation:Work Orders
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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