Fair Housing Law provides a person with a disability the right to request a reasonable modification. A person with a disability is permitted to make modifications to their unit and to common areas. The property owner can approve the plan and contractor, but cannot require that a specific contractor be used or that more expensive modifications be made. The owner must maintain the modification to a common area once it has been made.
A reasonable modification is a physical alteration to the existing premises to afford a person with a disability full use and enjoyment of the premises.
Examples of reasonable modifications include:
Grab bars in the bathroom.
Ramp to the unit sliding door.
Lowered light switches.
Widening a doorway.
Lowering a countertop.
Removing cabinets under a sink.
Placing a microwave on the counter rather than above the stove.
How to Make a Reasonable Modification Request
When: A request for a reasonable modification can be made at any time.
By Who: A request can be made by the person with a disability or by someone else on their behalf, including a Housing Support Service (HSS) specialist, Coordinator of Community Services (CCS)/case manager, family, friend, staff, etc.
To Who: A request can be made to anyone who works for the property owner, including the property manager, maintenance staff, administrative staff, etc.
How: The request can be verbal or in writing. It is strongly recommended that you make reasonable modification requests in writing and give them to the property manager or owner. This keeps a record of your request and makes the request clear to the owner.
The costs of making a reasonable modification are typically the responsibility of the tenant. Exceptions to this are if the development was already required to be accessible under Fair Housing Law, if the property included funding (other than a tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher) or if there is Maryland Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) funding in the project that was awarded beginning in 2018.
Resources that would pay for modifications which are the financial responsibility of the tenant include:
Financing with waiver funding: DDA waivers include environmental assessment and environmental modification services which can help you decide what modifications you may need and can help to pay for the modifications.
Financing with Maryland DHCD programs: DHCD has some low-cost loan and grant programs for adding accessibility to housing. See section XVIII.B.i for program information.
Financing with local programs: Some counties have programs that can help to pay for rental home modifications. For example, Baltimore County has the Housing Accessibility Modification Program (HAMP) that can assist with this.
Some local charitable organizations may have funding for home modifications for accessibility.
Escrow Account Requirements
A property owner can require a person with a disability to place money in an escrow account to pay for the cost of returning the unit to its previous condition after it has been modified. However, this can only be required if the modification is likely to make the unit harder to rent in the future. Some modifications are not considered detrimental to future renting, such as lowered light switches, levered faucet and door handles, widened doorways and some ramps. Modifications such as removing cabinets under sinks may need to be restored.