Eviction and Reasonable Accommodations in Texas
If you want to ask for a reasonable accommodation that lets you stay in your home, Disability Rights Texas's tool can help you write your landlord a letter.
No, not for disability alone. Sometimes, though, a disability can have characteristics, or can cause conduct, that may result in complaints or violate the lease. Those are the cases that the Disability Rights Texas handout is talking about.
Generally not. For example, if a person has a service animal (trained to perform some task) or an emotional support animal (that gives comfort to a person with a psychiatric disability), it is not really a pet. In those cases neither the person nor the animal can be excluded just because of a “no pets” policy.
Maybe so. In some cases, the landlord may violate the law if it refuses to stop an eviction in response to a tenant’s request for a “reasonable accommodation.” So asking for a reasonable accommodation may give you some protection against eviction.
In evictions, even if a tenant without a disability could be evicted, a landlord cannot necessarily evict a tenant with a disability because of behavior related to the tenant’s disability. If it is possible for a landlord to alter its policies and rules in a reasonable way so that a tenant with a disability can stay in the housing, the landlord must make the accommodation (unless it has a defense described in the "Are they are exceptions to the accommodation requirement, or defenses the landlord might have?" question below).
There is no complete list anywhere. In the housing context generally, accommodations might include selecting a different location for mail delivery that more is accessible to a tenant in a wheelchair (but still acceptable to the Postal Service), or not requiring the previous rental history for an applicant who is coming out of an institution.
In an eviction situation, some of the more common accommodation requests include allowing a service or support animal, or giving the tenant time to get assistance, medical or psychological treatment, or medications so that the tenant can change behavior.
Probably not. From the cases we have seen it appears unlikely that courts will require landlords to waive any portion of late rent payments, or even accept some type of payment plan, to allow tenants with disabilities to stay despite missed rent payments.
The first step is to ask for the reasonable accommodation. This does not have to be in writing, but it is better if you put it in writing (and keep a copy for your records). It should normally tell the landlord or property manager the nature of your disability, and should ask for a reasonable accommodation or other assistance in order to stay in the housing. It is best if you give an example of an accommodation that you think is reasonable, and that you think would work to fix the problems.
Sometimes. If your landlord asks for more information, or for a letter from your doctor, it is usually a good idea to cooperate. But you may want to talk to a lawyer to get the details about what the landlord can and cannot ask for.
In order to receive an accommodation, a tenant must be able to show the link between the tenant’s disability and the actions the landlord is complaining about. Courts are sometimes skeptical about this, so it is important to have good evidence. The tenant must also show that an accommodation will help the tenant comply with the lease.
It depends. Sometimes the courts say that landlords should not be allowed to insist on a specific accommodation if the tenant is able to propose a different accommodation that meets the tenant’s needs and allows the tenant to comply with lease provisions.
A tenant can challenge an eviction on the grounds of a landlord’s refusal to grant an accommodation in at least three ways: (1) by filing a lawsuit in court; (2) by filing an administrative complaint with HUD or a state enforcement agency; or (3) by raising the claim as a defense in an eviction action in court. However, because eviction cases move very fast, claims that the landlord failed to give a reasonable accommodation often are raised first as defenses in the eviction proceeding.
Not necessarily. In some cases you can ask for an accommodation even if the eviction case has already been filed in court. Also, in some situations the need for accommodation is so clear that the law does not require you to say any “magic words.”
Yes. A landlord does not have to provide a particular accommodation if the cost would be an “undue burden,” or if the accommodation would cause a “fundamental alteration” to the landlord’s business or services. Those things depend on the specific facts.
Also, if the lease violation is related to current illegal drug use, a landlord will not be required to keep a tenant.
Finally, the laws generally allow a landlord to evict a tenant if their staying would (a) be a “direct threat” to the health or safety of others, or (b) result in substantial physical damage to the property of others. Even in those cases, however, some courts require the landlord to show that no reasonable accommodation would have eliminated o reduced the risks. For example, in one case a tenant with a mental disability and a hearing impairment said that his behavior was caused by the disabilities and could be easily controlled and accommodated. The court made the public housing authority stop the eviction, and allow an opportunity for accommodation before it could proceed with the eviction.
That depends. The landlord’s obligation is a continuing one, so the landlord may have to try more than one thing. But at some point the courts may not require anything else from the landlord, and may let the eviction go through.
For Disability Rights Texas' handout on housing discrimination in general, you might look online at: https://www.disabilityrightstx.org/category/housing/.
There are various online documents that can give you a more detailed legal analysis. For example, see http://www.bazelon.org/our-work/mental-health-systems/community-integration/.
You may want to contact your local fair housing agency or legal aid organization about whether they can help or whether they can refer you to others who might be able to help you. In Texas, calling the statewide 211 referral number would be a good place to start.
Also, see TexasLawHelp's Legal Help Finder page.