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Reasonable Accommodations in Residential Landlord/Tenant Law

Article by Kenneth Krems for Massachusetts Bar Association Property Law, Section News

The duties of landlords and the rights of tenants in handicapped discrimination law are defined by a complex mixture of state and federal law. Each of the applicable laws, however, is based upon the premise of equal opportunity in housing for the disabled. Equal opportunity is achieved by offering qualified disabled persons reasonable accommodations to account for their disability. Massachusetts courts have been applying the reasonable accommodation standard in decisions, which are beginning to define the contours of the law with regard to handicapped discrimination in housing.

In one case, a landlord brought a summary process complaint in Boston Housing Court against a tenant alleging that the tenant was disturbing the quiet enjoyment of the other tenants by playing loud music and carousing during the night. The defendant answered that the landlord had violated the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by failing to offer a reasonable accommodation. The Rehabilitation Act was operative because the landlord was the recipient of federal funds.

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