Q: I have an tenant in one of my rentals that is 85 years old and uses a walker. I am concerned she is going to get hurt in my property. Her son contacted me about making changes to the property. I want to help this resident, but I don’t know what to start with.
A: I am not going to tell you what to do, I am going to tell you what NOT to do. There are two big red flags here. First, just because a relative contacts you, does not give you authorization to speak with them. You signed a contract with the resident, and you are only authorized to discuss the terms of the tenancy with that resident. Unless the resident gives you authority or unless you are given a power of attorney naming the son as the POA for the mom, you need to tell the son that you can’t discuss matters with him. Second, if the person needs changes to the unit, they need to ask you. Under fair housing laws, you do have to make changes to your policies and allow changes to your unit if a person is disabled. However, you should never proactively start to offer things that you believe a disabled person needs. That alone is a form of discrimination. You should always ensure your property is safe and beyond that, wait for a resident to make a request should they need a disability accommodation or modification.
by Mark B. Zinman, Attorney
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