The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a report on Tuesday, September 5th that really struck me. The report revealed the findings of a pilot study on rental housing discrimination on the basis of mental disabilities. As most readers of this blog know, I devote a substantial amount of space discussing disability discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. And for good reason, apparently, given that HUD’s recent report identified that persons with disabilities—specifically mental disabilities—received fewer responses to their rental inquiries, were informed of fewer available units and were less likely to be invited to contact the housing provider when compared to people without mental disabilities.
In addition, the report also focused on another topic I have devoted a significant amount of time on—reasonable accommodations—finding that a significant number of people with mental disabilities were given a negative response to their request. Interestingly enough, HUD’s study also found that a higher percentage of housing providers were willing to grant accommodation requests to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities than to people with mental illness.
So what’s the bottom line? The findings of HUD’s study really reveal that there is still an underlying stigma against residents and prospects with mental disabilities. As a property manager or landlord, you need to have policies in place to ensure that all prospects and residents are treated equally. With regard to handling reasonable accommodation requests, you must have strong policies in place, and I would recommend that you set up a centralized processing system for reviewing and responding to accommodation and modification requests. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because HUD has given strong indicators that it will be focusing its testing efforts on disability discrimination in the immediate future.