Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fair housing and disability benefits

The disability law blogs (see Sam Bagenstos, Charles Fox) and others do a great job of covering court cases (like this new Ninth Circuit opinion, also from California). But here's a less-famous settlement in LA. The attorney wrote to us here at DS,TU, looking to publicize the outcome. She hopes the settlement can help other disabled tenants in the same bind as her client. Connie Y. Chung of the Housing Rights Center writes:
I'm a fair housing attorney at a non-profit organization in Los Angeles and I recently settled a disability discrimination case that I thought might interest you. My client is a tenant in Whittier who has multiple, serious disabilities and now subsists primarily on his Social Security disability benefits. Because his Social Security check arrives on the second Wednesday of the month while his rent is due on the first of the month, he requested a reasonable accommodation from his housing provider to change his rent due date to correspond with the date on which he receives his disability check. His manager refused, stating that changing his rent due date would require an extra trip to the bank and the accounting office wouldn't be able to complete its rent reconciliation under the normal timeframe. The tenant contacted our organization and when the manager rejected our request as well, we filed a lawsuit in federal court. Soon after the lawsuit was filed, the housing provider offered to settle with us by accepting a partial rent for March, which the tenant could cover without the Social Security check, and then the tenant would go back in April to paying the full rent at the beginning of the month.

Our organization is trying to publicize this case because it's very common for tenants subsisting on disability checks to request a change in their rent due date as a reasonable accommodation, but we believe this is the only lawsuit ever filed in the US that has addressed this issue. We're hoping that the more people know of these types of reasonable accommodation requests, the more they'll be granted.
Important point: "reasonable accommodation" doesn't mean "as long as it doesn't cause the slightest inconvenience or change in our procedures." And note that the accommodation here isn't about the tenant's impairment, but around the realities of mismatched external supports--it was a calendar thing. Congratulations to attorney Chung and the Housing Rights Center for a settlement that makes a lot of sense.

The Housing Rights Center also deals with the rights of tenants with companion animals, and other kinds of code enforcement. They present workshops and materials in various languages (their staff page lists folks who can assist clients in Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Armenian, and Russian), and at various venues (including "walk-in clinics" at public libraries, schools, and farmers markets), to serve the widest possible range of Angelenos.


David said...

I am always learning things from your posts. I nominated you for the Thinking Blogger Award.

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