Eight Legal Reasons a Disability Accommodation Can Be Denied

24fb5295ce54cf6e23b8ef47a9fd136a--doodle-flowers-flower-designsIf your disability accommodation request is denied, the first thing to do is read your denial letter and see what reason is written there.

Your denial letter should be written and signed by the person at your housing program who is responsible for Fair Housing and reasonable accommodation decisions (NOT your housing worker). If you did not get a formal denial letter, you’re in luck: You haven’t been denied. All that’s happened is that someone said something that you should probably ignore. Check out If You Don’t Get a Written Decision and If Your Request is Denied for No Reason

If you have received a formal written letter of denial, here’s a few potential reasons and possible solutions:

# 1 – Your request is not related to your disability. 

This is a valid reason for a denial. The letters from both you and your provider must clearly explain the direct connection between your disability and the accommodation you are requesting.

If you get denied for this reason, the simplest solution is to submit a new request and this time both you and your provider can use clearer language: How to Make Sure Your Disability Accommodation is Disability-Related

Worked for Mayflower! Mayflower’s Tale of Two Letters

# 2 – Undue financial burden

If you are requesting something expensive, it may be turned down. Or it may be approved, but you will have to pay for it or find another source of funding. It depends on the circumstances and it depends if your building receives any federal funds. Learn more: Does My Landlord Have to Pay For Modifications?

# 3 – Not in their power 

You have to ask them for something they can actually do.

Example: You want an accessible parking spot near your apartment. If your landlord owns the parking lot, you could request a designated parking spot near your door. On the other hand, if you are parking on the street, your landlord does not have the power to change your parking situation. You may be able to request a handicap parking spot from your city’s Department of Transportation.

# 4 – Undue Administrative Burden 

If you are requesting something that would take a great deal more time and staffing, they do not have to approve this request.

For example, if your housing authority does not offer a homeownership program, and you request to do homeownership, they may decide that they cannot create an entire new program just for you.

# 5 – Outside Their Mission and Purpose

This really never comes up. But if you are somehow tempted to make a request that is not directly about housing, then, yeah, they can deny it.

# 6 – Breaks the Law / Breaks HUD Rules

Your housing program can make an exception to any rules they created. Policies created by your local program are sometimes called “discretionary policies.” These policies can be changed or exceptions can be made in most cases.

On the other hand, there are some policies they cannot change or make exceptions to. For example, they may not have the power to change, local zoning laws, state occupancy regulations, or federal HUD regulations.

Tip: If you are reading federal laws, you can sometimes tell which rules are mandatory and which are discretionary by looking for the words “may” or “must.” For example: They must deny someone who is running a meth lab. They may or may not deny someone who has a recent violent criminal history, and they are required to create their own policy on how recent violent criminal history is treated.

# 7 – Small Landlords

Some small private landlords are not legally required to approve reasonable accommodations because their property is not covered under the Fair Housing Act. When does the fair housing act apply to rental properties?

However, there may be local laws or policies that still allow for reasonable accommodations. Find local laws by contacting fair housing agencies in your area: How to Get Help for Housing Problems

# 8 – Direct Threat

If your accommodation would create a direct threat to the health or safety of other residents, they may deny it. They would need evidence that there truly is a legitimate safety threat (not just a perceived threat or fear).

Learn more about legal reasons for denials in the: Full Text of Fair Housing Act


Special Exception: Additional Bedrooms

Some of our readers have had requests for additional bedrooms turned because their housing program has a policy of “sleep in the living room”. If this is an issue you’re running into: Reasonable Accommodations & Sleeping in Living Room

Special Exception: Locks on Doors

Some of our readers have run into the problem that if their request involves a lock on the bedroom door, Housing Authority will not approve it because they state this goes against Housing Quality Standards.

Special Exception: Live in Aides

There are some additional reasons why a live in aide request might be turned down, or why a specific person might not get approved as a live in aide. Who Can Be My Live In Aide?

Special Exceptions: Assistance Animals

If you are requesting a service animal or emotional support animal, the landlord may be able to require that the animal receives certain shots. They can do this if it is required by law in your area, or if it is required by their insurance company. If their insurance company has other requirements about animals, you may need to follow these as well. However, they cannot restrict breed, weight, or size – unless this is specifically required in their written policy with their insurance company.

Special Exceptions: Medical Marijuana

Courts have denied reasonable accommodation requests for use of medical marijuana. Learn more: Medical Marijuana in HUD, Section 8, and Low Income Housing

Special Exceptions: Current Illegal Drug Use

Addiction is considered a disability by the Fair Housing Act. However, if your disability impairments are caused by current, illegal drug use, you are not eligible to request reasonable accommodations. Current use only, not past use. Is Drug and Alcohol Addiction a Disability?


Random Reasons

If you were denied for a reason not included above, it’s possible your denial was not legal. Check out If Your Request is Denied and How to Get Help or File Complaints

Missing Stuff!

Your request will have the best chance if it includes all these things:

  • Letter or form from you
  • Letter or form from doctor
  • Both letters or forms state that you are disabled
  • Both letters state this is a reasonable accommodation request
  • Doctor has written what you are requested and why it is needed
  • Some requests require some additional documents

If you haven’t included these things yet, try gathering them and submitting again. There is no limit on number of requests you can make.

Find samples of letters and documents to include in your request: Epic Master List of Disability Accommodation Letters for Housing

3 thoughts on “Eight Legal Reasons a Disability Accommodation Can Be Denied”

  1. Hud fair housing discriminatory laws state that a housing provider has the right to ask for verification by a physician if the disability is not visable . You will find that this pertains to physical disabilities . If you have a mental disability your telling them you have a mental disability and cannot do certain things is sufficient . However most PHA’s follow this to relate to mental health this is a very touchy federaly protected area . If you never recieved a penny from section 8 you fall under the americans with disabilities act mental health amendments and strict hippa laws if you do not have anyone to verify this it states it is inapropriate to press you , your word is good enough as long as they have your award letters from disability and to deny or make you do such things is discrimination. possibly retaliation in some cases . In this case you can file with the FHEO or department of justice civil rights department . To be forced to have a medical professional to verify a persons mental health in order to recieve a accommodation due to those disability is obsered


  2. Some disabled persons don’t have current doctors that will write letters for them. Some even have a hard time keeping doctors or finding the right fit. Some don’t have support. How do you get help with reasonable accommodations if these situations apply to you?


    1. Hi Nikki,

      It’s a great question, I wish I had a great answer….

      One solution is to find a case worker or social worker… case workers can also write reasonable accommodation letters.

      However, having a supportive doctor is important for passing disability reviews as well.

      Ideas for if your doctor won’t help with paperwork: https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/how-to-get-your-doctor-to-fill-out-paperwork-when-your-doctor-wont-fill-out-paperwork/

      Places to find case workers:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s