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Planning now for tenants with AIDS.

Planning now for tenants with AIDS

As the incidence of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) increases, most apartment managers will have an infected person as a tenant at some point. By formulating policies now, managers may be able to avoid a crisis and potential legal problems later.

Housing professionals should work with an attorney who understands the increasing number of state and local laws prohibiting discrimination against AIDS victims. They should also follow efforts in Congress and at HUD to formulate federal policies on treatment of AIDS victims in housing management.

AIDS is the final manifestation of infection by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). There are three categories of persons infected with the HIV. Those who are not sick at all are commonly said to be asymptomatic carriers. Persons who have illnesses but not AIDS are said to suffer from AIDS-Related Complex (ARC). Persons with AIDS are in the final, fatal stage of HIV infection.

The distinctions among the three stages of infection are important for brokers and property managers. For managers of federally assisted properties, the three stages provide a framework for deciding who must be admitted and who may be excluded from occupancy.

A property manager's responsibility with respect to a tenant or applicant infected with HIV will depend on whether that person can be considered handicapped or disabled. If so, he or she would be protected by federal, state, and local laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of handicap.

Discrimination on the basis of a handicap is now part of the Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Right Act of 1968). At the federal level, Sec. 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits recipients of federal assistance from discriminating on the basis of handicap.

There is no policy defining whether HIV infection constitutes a handicap or disability under HUD programs. However, existing case law suggests that the presence of AIDS is sufficient to bring someone within the protection of the Vocational Rehab Act. Thus, AIDS would not be permissible grounds to evict a tenant or deny an application for housing assistance.

Whether persons suffering from ARC are protected by Sec. 504 has yet to be clearly addressed and will likely depend on the condition of the particular housing applicant or tenant. The status of asymptomatic carriers is even less clear. The best course is probably to treat them no differently from any other tenant or applicant in applying eligibility and eviction criteria.

In general, AIDS victims are likely to be sufficiently impaired to meet most definitions of handicap. Persons with ARC may or may not be sufficiently impaired to be considered handicapped. Asymptomatic carriers have no physical impairement and can be considered handicapped only under a very broad definition.

The definition of handicap also affects eligibility for Sec. 8 or other federal housing assistance. Many persons with AIDS are single and would not be eligible for Sec. 8 assistance under normal circumstances. However, single persons would become eligible if they have a disability or illness, as defined by law. They would still have to meet normal income eligibility criteria.

Resident concerns

The needs of the HIV-infected individual is only one part of the equation. Property owners may have to address the concerns of other tenants or resident managers who fear the prospect of being in contact with a person infected with HIV.

Unlike other communicable diseases, which can be transmitted through airborne germs or through direct contact, AIDS can be transmitted only through direct exchange of bodily fluids during sexual intercourse, through the sharing of intravenous needles, or through transfusions of tainted blood. There have been no reported incidences of AIDS being contracted solely through casual contact.

Based on current medical knowledge, then, it is unlikely that HIV could be transmitted through the types of contact an HIV-infected tenant can be expected to have with other tenants.

Yet, despite repeated assurances to that effect, there have been numerous instances of hostility directed towards AIDS patients, those thought to carry AIDS, and those who care for AIDS patients. The President's Commission on AIDS recently heard testimony relating numerous instances of housing discrimination against a number of individuals who were in some way associated with AIDS.

Although many problems have been settled without recourse to legal action, the number of legal actions centered on housing issues will increase.

It may be best to address these issues in guidelines and procedures specifically established for resident and property managers. All guidelines should be tailored to account for any particular state or local restrictions.

Eligibility criteria

for assisted housing

* Managers should not discriminate against an applicant merely because he or she suffers from HIV-infection, ARC, or AIDS.

* Single HIV-infected persons may meet eligibility requirements for federal housing assistance if they meet the appropriate income guidelines and if HIV infection is deemed to constitute a "handicap" or "disability" under the relevant housing statutes.

* An applicant may be considered handicapped only if he or she suffers from a physical impairment which is not expected to improve, that impairment makes it difficult to live independently, and suitable housing conditions would materially improve his or her ability to live independently.

* Even if an applicant does not meet the three-pronged definition of handicapped, if he or she is applying for Sec. 8 assistance, he or she is eligible for assisted housing if he or she suffers from a "disability" as defined in the Social Security Act.

Eviction criteria

for assisted housing

* A tenant in an assisted or unassisted unit who is infected with HIV should be treated no differently from other tenants for purposes of eviction. The presence of HIV infection will not in and of itself constitute good cause for eviction.

* Managers are not required to give HIV-infected persons special treatment. A person who is infected with HIV can be evicted for actual good cause.

Confidentiality

* In some states, laws restrict when and how may disclose medical information concerning tenants and applicants. Generally, it is advisable to keep all information regarding the medical condition of tenants and applicants strictly confidential.

* Should you have any reason to discuss or disclose this information, consult an attorney before taking action.

John Mcllwain is a partner in the law firm of Powell, Goldstein, Frazer and Murphy in Washington, D.C. CloLeeta Simpson is a legal assistant with the same firm.
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Author:McILwain, John; Simpson, CloLeeta
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Jan 1, 1989
Words:1054
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