Boards and Management: Waiting for “The Other Shoe to Drop” After Mandatory “Reasonable Accommodation” Disclosures
Human rights laws and fair housing laws have been in effect for decades, providing equal access and opportunity for people with disabilities to use and enjoy housing, amenities and services. Yet Co-op and Condo Boards and Management may want to brace themselves for the potential onslaught of requests for reasonable modifications and accommodations from people with disabilities once mandatory notices are sent to tenants under the new Human Rights Laws.
The new Human Rights Laws (enacted as NYS Executive Law §§ 296.2-b and 296.18-a) require that every “owner, lessee, sub-lessee, assignee, or managing agent….disclose to all tenants and prospective tenants…their right to request reasonable modifications and accommodations if they have a ‘disability’” (as defined in the statute). A sample notice provided by the Division of Human Rights complies with the new provisions and is available by clicking HERE. Among other things, the Sample Notice specifies that people with disabilities may seek permission (i) to change the interior of the apartment, at the occupant’s cost (e.g., install grab bars in a bathroom), (ii) to change the housing provider’s rules, policies, practices or services (e.g., allow a service/assistance animal as an exception to a “no pets” policy), or (iii) to make changes to the common areas of buildings and grounds (i.e., install lobby ramps, automate doors, modify parking).
The written notice must be provided to all prospective tenants within thirty (30) days of the beginning of their tenancy, or by April 1, 2021 for current tenants. The notice must be “conspicuously posted” on every vacant apartment available for rent as well. (However, the Human Rights Commission has not yet established exactly what that means.)
Co-op and Condo boards that own apartments should send the notice directly to their tenants. Individual unit owners and proprietary lessees are required to send the notice to their tenants as well, and to make prospective tenants or subtenants aware of their rights. Though not expressly mandated by law, prudent boards and management seeking to ensure compliance may wish to include with a (co-op) purchase, or a co-op or condo rental or sublet application package an additional requirement that each prospective shareholder, tenant or subtenant sign a written confirmation that they received the required disclosure.
The relatively modest inconvenience imposed by these new disclosure requirements is likely to lead to additional demands on Boards and owners requiring a significant investment in infrastructure as requests for accommodations begin to flow.