Reasonable Accommodation Policy

Chapter 3: Analyzing a Reasonable Accommodation Request

BHA considers a number of factors when deciding whether to grant a request for an Accommodation. BHA must determine if a Client is eligible for an RA, whether the requested Accommodation may be necessary to provide an equal opportunity to use and enjoy BHA housing and programs, and whether or not the Accommodation is reasonable.

BHA will review requests on a case-by-case basis. It will not consider whether allowing an Accommodation for one Client would cause others to request the same.

3.1  Who is eligible for a Reasonable Accommodation?

In order to be eligible for an RA, a Client must be an “otherwise qualified individual with a disability.” As stated in Section 1.2, the Client does not need to be the head of household to be eligible for an RA; an authorized household member may be eligible as well.

3.1.1  What is a “disability”?

For RA analyses, a disability is a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” This definition has three key parts:

  • “Physical or mental impairment:” Some examples of this are diseases and conditions, such as orthopedic, visual, speech and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection, intellectual disabilities, emotional illness, drug addiction5, and alcoholism.

  • “Substantially limits:” The limitation caused by the mental or physical impairment is “significant” or “to a large degree.”

  • “Major life activity:” An activity of central importance to daily life. Some examples are seeing, hearing, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for one’s self, learning, and speaking.

3.1.2  Who is “otherwise qualified”?

An “otherwise qualified individual with a disability” is a person with a disability who is able to meet essential BHA housing eligibility requirements and comply with essential program requirements with or without an RA. Some examples of essential program requirements are: completing required certifications in a timely manner, not disturbing one’s neighbors’ peace and quiet enjoyment, paying rent on time, and maintaining one’s unit in accordance with sanitary code requirements.

This part of the definition becomes an issue when a Client is having difficulty meeting eligibility requirements or complying with program requirements due to a disability. In such situations, he/she may seek an RA that allows him/her to do so. For example, if a Resident is struggling with housekeeping in his/her apartment due to a mental or physical disability to the point where the unit’s condition poses health and safety risks, BHA may forgo an eviction action against the Resident if he/she agrees to allow a third-party to come help him/her with learning housekeeping skills (or with the actual housekeeping itself) as an RA.

See Chapter 5 for situations in which this concept becomes very important.

3.2  There needs to be a relationship (“nexus”) between the disability and the Accommodation requested

There must be an identifiable relationship6 between a Client’s disability and a requested Accommodation showing that the Accommodation may be necessary to provide the Client with an equal opportunity to use and enjoy BHA housing or programs.

In other words, a requested Accommodation needs to help lessen or eliminate difficulties to program participation or enjoyment caused by the disability. These difficulties may be physical, such as when a disability makes it difficult for a Resident to open his/her apartment door, leading to a request for an automatic door opener. These difficulties can also be related to policies and practices, such as when Participant’s disability leads to a program violation, leading to a request that the BHA not proceed with termination if the Participant provides sufficient evidence of an effective plan to prevent the violation from recurring.

In the above two examples, the Client is requesting something that will help put him/her in the same position as someone who does not have his/her disability and therefore provide equal opportunity. The Resident requests an automatic door opener so that he/she can have the same unit accessibility of a person without his/her disability. The Participant requests that he/she be given another chance to comply with the program requirements and remain housed because a person without his/her disability would not have violated the requirements in the first place.

If no such relationship between a Client’s disability and requested Accommodation can be identified, BHA will deny the Accommodation.

3.3  Accommodations must be “reasonable” to be granted

BHA is not required to grant an Accommodation unless it is reasonable. If an Accommodation would 1) pose an “undue financial or administrative burden” for BHA or 2) result in a “fundamental alteration” in the nature of BHA’s program, it is considered unreasonable.               

3.3.1  What is an “undue financial or administrative burden”?

A determination of burden takes into account BHA’s currently available resources. Factors to be considered include:

  • The financial and administrative resources of BHA and the cost of the Accommodation in terms of both;

  • The benefits the requested Accommodation would provide the Client; and

  • The availability of other Accommodations that require less financial and administrative resources but would still meet the Client’s needs.

If there are multiple Accommodations that would meet a Client’s needs, BHA may select the least burdensome. If only one Accommodation would meet a Client’s needs but it is burdensome, BHA will comply with it to the extent it can do so without creating an undue financial and/or administrative burden.

3.3.2  What is a “fundamental alteration”?

An Accommodation requires a fundamental alteration of BHA’s program if it would cause the agency to act outside of its primary purpose as a provider of subsidized housing. For example, requests that BHA provide resources for child care, nursing services, or other services not directly related to housing/rental assistance would require fundamental alterations of BHA’s program and therefore not be reasonable.

Requests that require BHA to operate contrary to the requirements placed upon it by law or regulation would be also be considered fundamental alterations. For example, if a Voucher Holder requests to be able to lease up a unit that would require him/her to pay more than 40% of his/her monthly adjusted income as an RA (because he/she needs to live in that particular unit due to a disability), that request would be denied because HUD strictly forbids approving initial leases that require that much payment.7

3.4  Devices and services not provided as Reasonable Accommodations        

BHA is not required to provide Clients with disabilities with personal or individually-prescribed devices, such as wheelchairs, prescription eyeglasses, or hearing aids, or to provide services of a personal nature, such as assistance in eating, toileting, or dressing.

3.5  Verifying disabilities and the effectiveness of Accommodations

As an initial matter, BHA will assume that a Client is an expert on his/her own disability and any appropriate Accommodations. Unless BHA can identify specific reasons for doing otherwise, it should accept the Client’s judgment that an Accommodation is needed and that the Accommodation proposed for meeting those needs is the most appropriate.

BHA is entitled by law, however, to obtain reliable disability-related information that:

  1. Is necessary to verify that the Client meets the definition of a person with a disability;

  2. Describes the needed Accommodation; and

  3. Shows the relationship between the person’s disability and the need for the requested Accommodation.

3.5.1  What type of information may BHA not request?

BHA may not request the following when verifying the need for an RA:

  • A Client’s specific medical diagnosis or the details of treatment;

  • Information regarding the nature and severity of a Client’s disability, unless such information is needed to determine if a requested Accommodation is necessary and/or appropriate; or

  • A Client’s medical records.

If both a Client’s disability and need for a requested Accommodation are obvious or otherwise known to BHA, it may not request additional information regarding either. If the Client’s disability is known or readily apparent to BHA, but the need for a requested Accommodation is not, BHA may only request information necessary to evaluate the need.

3.5.2  Who may provide verification?

A Client can usually personally provide information verifying whether he/she meets the definition of a person with a disability. For example, a Client may present a Disabled Parking Placard, provide proof that he/she receives disability benefits, or give a credible statement.

Additionally, a doctor/medical professional, social worker, member of a peer support group/non-medical service agency, or other reliable third-party who is in a position to know about the Client’s disability may also provide verification of his/her disability and need for an RA.

3.5.3  BHA requests for additional information from a Client will be in writing and provide a reasonable deadline for responding

When evaluating a request, if BHA determines it requires additional information from the Client to reach a decision, BHA will make best efforts to inform the Client in writing within twenty (20) calendar days of receiving the request. The letter will clearly identify the needed information, explain why it is needed, and suggest examples of appropriate information sources. BHA will not deny an RA request due to a lack of sufficient information without first reaching out to the Client in this way.

Any written requests for additional information will provide a reasonable deadline for providing it. The deadline will be at least twenty (20) calendar days from the date of the letter.

3.5.4  BHA will inform a Client if a third party is contacted and does not respond

In certain cases, the Client will authorize BHA to directly contact a third-party verifier. If BHA attempts to contact a third-party and the third party does not respond within a reasonable amount of time, BHA will inform the Client in writing of this and will give the Client an opportunity to obtain the information from the third party him/herself. The deadline will be at least twenty (20) calendar days from the date of the writing.

3.6  Meetings regarding Reasonable Accommodation requests

If a BHA staff member believes meeting with a Client about his/her request would help with evaluating it, the staff member will inform the Client in writing of the proposed meeting as soon as practicable and identify the issue(s) to be discussed. The Client may also request a meeting with a staff member if he/she feels it would be useful in evaluating an RA request. Any meetings held concerning a Client’s request for an RA will be held in a location accessible to the Client.

3.7  Clients who are not entitled to RAs         

Disability law specifically excludes certain categories of individuals from its protection and rejects certain statuses as disabilities: 

3.7.1  Clients who currently illegally use controlled substances

A Client who currently and illegally uses controlled substances, as defined by state and federal law, is not entitled to an RA if that use is the sole basis for the request.

Whether or not use is “current” is determined on an individualized basis. BHA will make a determination based on whether use has occurred recently enough to justify a reasonable person’s belief that a person’s illegal drug use is current or that continuing use is a real and ongoing problem.

Recovery from substance abuse could, however, qualify as a disability and therefore be a basis for an RA request if the Client is not currently engaged in the illegal use of a controlled substance as described above.

3.7.2  Clients whose tenancies pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others or would result in substantial physical damage to the property of others

Disability law does not protect a Client from eviction, program termination, or findings of ineligibility if his/her tenancy or participation poses a "direct threat" as a result of a disability, unless the threat can be eliminated by an RA. A Client’s tenancy is considered a direct threat if it would:

  1. Pose a significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of other individuals; or

  2. Result in substantial physical damage to the property of others.

BHA will determine whether a Client poses a direct threat by relying on an individualized assessment based on reliable objective evidence such as current conduct or a recent history of overt acts, rather than generalized assumptions, subjective fears, and/or speculation.  BHA will consider the following factors:

  • The nature, duration, and severity of the risk of injury;

  • The probability that injury will actually occur; and

  • Whether an RA would eliminate the direct threat.

BHA has a right to seek evidence that a Client does not pose a direct threat. BHA may therefore request that the Client document how circumstances have changed since threatening behavior occurred so that he/she no longer poses a direct threat. In evaluating a recent history of overt acts, BHA will take into account whether the individual has received intervening treatment or medication that has eliminated the direct threat.

3.8  Mitigating circumstances and Reasonable Accommodation requests

There are situations in which a Client, facing an adverse action by the BHA (such as a finding of ineligibility or allegations of lease/program enforcement violations8, or the missing of a deadline for requesting a hearing), has the ability to present evidence of mitigating circumstances under BHA policy.9 This does not prevent a Client from also requesting an RA.

If a Client requests both an RA and presents evidence of mitigating circumstances in such situations, BHA will review the mitigating circumstances first in case doing so makes an RA review (which would likely be more complex) unnecessary. For example, a Client may miss an appeal with BHA’s Department of Grievances and Appeals (“DGA”) due to being hospitalized as a result of a disability. The Client may request another appeal date as an RA because he/she only missed the original date due to a disability. At the same time, he/she has also presented evidence of mitigating circumstances: he/she missed the appeal because of being hospitalized, regardless of the medical reasons. In such a situation, DGA may take into consideration the hospitalization and grant a new hearing without needing to go through a full RA analysis.10

Note that when a Client both requests an RA and presents evidence of mitigating circumstances during a DGA hearing/appeal, the Hearing Officer will not address the mitigating circumstances until the final decision.


5Excludes addiction caused by current, illegal use of a controlled substance. See 3.7.1 for more information.


6The legal term for this relationship is “nexus.”


7In such situations, an RA request to increase the payment standard, if supported by appropriate documentation and approved by the Leased Housing Division, might resolve the situation.


8More information on RA requests related to findings of program ineligibility, lease violations, and program violations may be found in Chapter 5.


9For more information on the consideration of mitigating circumstances, please consult BHA’s Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy (“ACOP”) and Leased Housing Administrative Plan for Section 8 Programs (“Leased Housing Admin. Plan”).


10Note that a department may still request some form of verification of alleged mitigating circumstances, but the information requested will likely be much simpler than that potentially requested during an RA review (in this example, DGA would simply want proof of the hospitalization).

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