If you are having struggles with your housing or your housing application, you may be able to request a change or exception to the rules to make things work better for you. These kinds of requests are called “Reasonable Accommodations.”
Reasonable Accommodations are a great way to get your disability needs met and find housing that will work for you.
Who Can Make a Request
A reasonable accommodation request can be made by any person who is disabled. If your child or someone else in your household is disabled, you can also make an accommodation request on their behalf.
If you are on Social Security disability, you will definitely qualify as disabled. If you are not on disability, you may still qualify if you have a chronic illness or other physical or mental health condition that significantly impairs you. Learn more about: Fair Housing Act Definition of Disability
How To Make a Request
Small requests don’t always need a formal process. Sometimes you can just call or email and ask for what you need.
For example: “Due to my disabilities, I am unable to come apply in person. May I please have an accommodation to apply by phone, mail or email?” or “Because of my disabilities, speaking on the phone is difficult. May I please have an accommodation to communicate by email instead?”
If you are requesting something bigger, or your housing program requires a more formal process, here are the steps:
Step One: Ignore Everyone
If you tell your housing worker that you are planning to make a reasonable accommodation request, there’s a good chance you will be told that the accommodation you want is not possible.
Don’t worry if this happens. It is totally normal and it means absolutely nothing.
Step Two: Try Not to Get To Upset About It
Most housing workers are not properly trained in reasonable accommodation policies. They are not trying to be mean to you. They’re just repeating what they’ve been told. They may think that what they are saying to you is correct.
Don’t worry. The person who is saying “no” to you is not the person who’s going to read your request and make the decision. That will be done by someone who actually knows the rules. (We hope!)
You can just say “thank you.” Then feel free to ignore whatever they said and submit your request anyway.
Step Three: Get a Form
Your housing program probably has a special form for making reasonable accommodation requests.
You don’t have to use their form. You can use any form you want, or you can write a letter. However, as you may have figured out by now, most housing workers don’t not know these rules. They’re going to think that you have to use their form. You might as well just make your life easier and use it.
You may be able to find their form on their website, or you can request that your housing worker mail or email you one. There should be two parts: One for you and one for your doctor or provider.
If you can’t find the form, or don’t want to use their form, or they don’t have a form, you can write a letter instead. If They Insist You Use Their Form
Step Four: Fill Out Your Part
Here’s the part where you write down what accommodating you are requesting and why you are requesting it.
If their form does it give you enough space, you can just write “see attached” and attach a statement or letter. Epic Master List of Disability Accommodation Letters
Step Five: Make Sure Your Request is Disability Related
This step is important. If you skip this step you will have to go back and start again at step one. Make Sure Your Disability Accommodation is Disability-Related
Mayflower is the perfect example. Her doctor wrote two letters. The first was denied. The second was approved. What was different? See for yourself: Mayflower’s Two Doctor Letters
Step Six: Pick a Provider
You will need someone willing to write a letter or fill out a form for you. Your provider can be a doctor or a social worker or a nurse or a therapist or a psychiatrist, or another professional who is familiar with your disability needs.
Step Seven: Ask Your Provider for a Form or Letter
Tips for getting a good form or letter: How To Get a Letter from Your Provider
Your provider’s letter can be similar to your letter. Azalea emailed her doctor her letter, he agreed with everything, and his letter was almost the same: Azalea’s Two Letters
If their form doesn’t give enough space to write, your provider can write “see attached” and attach a statement or letter.
Step Eight: What to Include / What Not to Include
You do not have to disclose your diagnosis, symptoms, or medical treatment. Your provider also does not have to disclose this.
You do have to confirm your disability limitations related to this request. Your provider also has to confirm this.
Examples: How Do I Describe My Disability?
Step Nine: Submit Your Request
You can send in your forms by mail, email, fax or in person. In the ideal world, it is good to submit them in some way where you have a receipt that they were sent. If you bring it in person, get a stamp, here’s an example: Keep Proof it Was Submitted
Some programs will insist that the doctor’s form must come directly from the doctor’s office. Most programs do not have this requirement, however if yours does, you may need to contact your doctor’s office and have them fax that in for you.
Note: There are a few types of requests that require extra process or extra documentation. Make sure you’ve got everything included if you made one of these requests; Higher Payment Standard or Rent from Relative. Policies for live in aides can also be a bit more complicated: Live-in Aides
Step Ten: Get Approved
Most requests that get to this step get approved. If not, on to next steps…
When Will I Hear Back?
Response time for an accommodation request will vary. Usually a few days, but sometimes up to a month. If your situation is urgent, you may be able to contact higher up officials and ask for their help in getting a faster response (see link below).
Can My Request Be Denied?
There are some situations where your request can get denied: Eight Legal Reasons a Disability Accommodation Can Be Denied
Still Having Problems?
If you got a denial, a bad response, or no response, take a look here: What to Do If Your Accommodation Request is Denied
Get Help / Get Heard
You can also contact these places for help: How to Get Help or File Complaints for Housing Problems
Tips from Readers
🌷 Basil started by calling the Director of the HUD Field Office: “I spoke to the Director of the field office first. She said she saw no problems with my request. Then when I spoke to the local housing authority, I name-dropped the Director of the field office. The head of the local housing authority approved my request.”
🌷 Margaret was told “not possible” but she ignored this: “When I asked verbally, they told me there was no funding and it was not possible, but I applied anyway. So, when I got this letter in the mail, I thought for sure this was a denial letter, but then I read it. I’m so happy.”
🌷 Azalea cc’d her emails to a local advocacy group. “When it was getting difficult, I looped in a local advocacy organization. In my case, it was the city’s Human Rights office. They didn’t have to do anything. Once the Housing Authority saw that the Human Rights office was cc’d on emails, they were magically more helpful”. To makes sure that the cc was noticed, in her email Azalea wrote: “I am copying The Human Rights council on this request.”
🌷 Dandelion also suggests: “In your request, make sure to identify yourself as a person with disabilities, and write that this is a reasonable accommodation request. This will give you protection under the Fair Housing Act. You do not have to disclose your diagnosis or health details.”
🌷 Delphinium on accommodation forms: “No special forms are ever required to request or appeal a reasonable accommodation and it can’t be denied solely for it not being on their “preferred” format. However, if you use their form it makes it easier to know what information they want. It is very helpful to have your request clearly expressed as a reasonable accommodation for a disability.”
Great Advice from Lise
“I have yet to hear of any Housing Authority volunteering information about reasonable accommodations for disabled. I know it is degrading and exhausting. If you get told no, try to let go and just proceed with the accommodation request. Maintain as much privacy and dignity as you can.
“The Housing Authority staff are not medical professionals and can not override your doctor’s credentials. Communicate only by email, don’t get into debates about your disabilities and needs. If they try to follow up with your doctors, they likely won’t get a callback and will have to concede. Seek support from other disabled people. We are here. You are not alone. We have our dignity here amongst ourselves.”
Facebook Group: HUD and Section 8 for People with Disabilities (and family)
More Facebook Groups: Housing for People with Disabilities or Chronic Illness
Updated February 2019. Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: