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RE Q&A: Does a Disability Allow a Renter to Legally Stay?

A landlord gave a tenant notice of nonrenewal at the legally correct time, but the tenant wants to stay because she’s close to healthcare. What does fair housing law say?

RICHMOND, Va. – Question: I served a notice of nonrenewal on a tenant within the required time period. The tenant has since come to me and explained she has a disability and, due to the unit’s proximity to certain health services she utilizes, she would like to remain in the unit.

Will I run afoul of Fair Housing law if I proceed with the nonrenewal?

Answer: No, proceeding with a nonrenewal of the lease in this situation would not constitute a violation of Fair Housing law.

Fair Housing law prohibits landlords from discriminating or taking retaliatory action against the tenant because she has a disability. Here, the nonrenewal was not related to the tenant’s disability, so it is not retaliatory.

Fair Housing law also requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. A request by a tenant to continue living in the unit in perpetuity beyond the original term of the lease would not qualify as a reasonable accommodation. The fact that a tenant may have a disability does not prevent a landlord from proceeding with a nonrenewal of the lease.

Source: Virginia Realtors Legal Hotline

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