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Fair Housing Insiders

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Reasonable Modification Requests and Your Maintenance Team

 

Apartment maintenance staff may receive reasonable modification requests because of their direct contact with residents. Therefore, it’s important that they are educated on how to respond to such requests.

Maintenance Employees & Customer Service

Residents may discuss their needs for reasonable accommodations or modifications with maintenance employees prior to mentioning their needs to anyone in leasing or management. For example, if a maintenance employee is in a resident's apartment fixing the sink, the resident may tell the employee that she is having difficulty using her shower and needs a grab bar installed as soon as possible. Understandably, a helpful maintenance employee may offer to immediately take care of it without even mentioning it to the office staff.

Management should have a reasonable accommodation/modification policy in effect describing the appropriate process that this type of request should follow. The first question is whether this request by the resident is merely a work order or a request for a modification because of the resident's disability. If this is a request because of a disability, then the next question is: Who pays for this modification? Many management companies of conventional properties have a policy that management will install and pay for a modification that costs less than a specified amount (i.e., $200). If so, then this request would merely need to be put in writing and completed.

Reasonable Modification Records

The important part of the process is getting the documentation of the request and keeping a record that the reasonable modification was completed. The process should require the resident to put the request in writing, either in the form of a work request or on a reasonable modification request form. When a modification request is communicated to a maintenance employee, he/she needs to inform the office of the request so the office can follow up.

There are a large number of possible requests for reasonable modifications. Through role-playing, in-house training, and fair housing online training, apartment maintenance employees should be educated to recognize the kinds of requests that may be related to disabilities and to give the proper response. Obviously, it's better to be prepared for the inevitable reasonable modification request and ensure that maintenance employees will respond appropriately than to wait for a costly mistake to occur.

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