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Federal District Court Judge Finds that FHA Requires Landlord to Accommodate Rental Dues Dates for Tenants with Disability Benefits

On June 29, 2018, Judge Barclay Surrick ruled in favor of Plaintiff Fair Housing Rights Center in Southeastern Pennsylvania ("FHRC") by finding that a landlord can violate the Fair Housing Act ("FHA") by maintaining a policy of refusing to consider the reasonable accommodation requests of disabled tenants or prospective tenants who seek to alter their rent due dates to correspond with the receipt of their disability benefits.

The Defendant in this case, Morgan Properties Management Company, employs a policy of refusing to consider reasonable accommodation requests to the company's typical first-of-the-month rent due date for disabled tenants whose SSDI checks arrive later in the month. However, Morgan Properties made due date adjustments for a wide variety of other tenants for non-disability related reasons. Morgan Properties applies this policy company-wide at the more than 35,000 rental units it manages in 10 states. The first-of-the-month rent due date poses particular challenges for SSDI recipients, who are unable to work as a result of their disabilities and receive their disability benefits on a fixed schedule. FHRC's suit alleges that Morgan Properties' blanket refusal to consider accommodations for people with disabilities violates the disability discrimination prohibitions of the FHA and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

In denying Defendant's motion for summary judgment, Judge Surrick not only held that the FHA permits consideration of a person's disability-related financial circumstances in evaluating the necessity of a requested accommodation, but that FHRC has adduced sufficient facts for a jury to find that rental due date accommodations can be reasonable and necessary to afford disabled tenants an equal opportunity to use and enjoy housing. The Court's ruling reaffirms that housing providers may face FHA liability for failing to consider the reasonable accommodation requests of disabled tenants who need an accommodation, such as a different rent due-date, to address their disability-related financial constraints.

The firm's litigation team is led by Tara Ramchandani and Megan Cacace, with assistance from Rocco Iacullo of Disability Rights Pennsylvania. To read the Court's Opinion click here.

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