If you have a prospective tenant with a disability or a current tenant who becomes disabled, they may need some changes to the property to be able to access it from the outside or to be able to move around inside.
What are you legally required to do as a New York City landlord? The law you need to reference is the NYC Human Rights Law.
What are reasonable accommodations?
The law requires landlords to make “reasonable” accommodations – in other words, accommodations that can be made without undue hardship to them or to other residents. For example, if a person needs a parking space close to the apartment building, you aren’t required to make another tenant give up their space. However, you can make sure that they get a convenient space as soon as one opens up. The law doesn’t require that you give a tenant precisely what they want, but that you provide an accommodation that will allow them the access they need.
Who pays for the accommodation? That depends. If you need to build or install a ramp because the building is only accessible via steps and your tenant uses a wheelchair, you likely need to cover the cost, which shouldn’t be significant. The same is true if a tenant needs special accommodations within their living space, like grab bars. There may be an exception if it’s a rent-controlled apartment.
Why ADA compliance is key
Be sure that the ramp or any other structural change you make is compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifications. If it’s not, you could find yourself facing serious fines and a personal injury lawsuit. It doesn’t matter whether a person’s disability is expected to be temporary or permanent. They still have a right to reasonable accommodations.
If you have a prospective tenant with a disability interested in your property, you can’t refuse to rent to them because of that disability. That’s discrimination, and it can cost you far more than a few accommodations would. Even if you have other reasons for choosing another tenant, be careful to avoid even the appearance of discrimination.
If you have any questions regarding reasonable accommodations, it’s wise to seek legal guidance. You don’t want to run afoul of city laws that protect the rights of disabled renters.