Landlord-Tenant Law and Reasonable Modifications

By Lane V. Erickson, Attorney

Not all tenants, or potential tenants, are healthy.  Many have physical disabilities or handicaps that limit their mobility or ability to function normally.  Discriminating against a tenant or potential tenant because of a disability is prohibited by both state and federal law.  However, I’ve had many landlord clients who are concerned about what they are required to do when a tenant or potential tenant makes a request for a reasonable modification.

A reasonable modification is a structural change made to existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability, in order to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises.  Reasonable modifications can include structural changes to interiors and exteriors of dwellings and to common and public use areas.  People with disabilities can ask for reasonable modification.

A person with a disability is defined as:

  • A person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • Individuals regarded as having such as impairment; and
  • Individuals with a record of such an impairment.

A reasonable modification request must be reasonable and necessary.  A housing provider can deny a request for a reasonable modification if:

  • There is no disability related need for the modification; or
  • If the request is not reasonable i.e., if the request would pose an undue financial or administrative burden on the housing provider or it would fundamentally alter the nature of the provider’s operations.

When a housing provider (landlord) deems a request to be unreasonable, it is required to engage in an interactive process with the person requesting the modification to agree upon an alternate modification.  A failure to reach an agreement on a modification request is in effect a decision by the provider not to grant the requested modification.

The tenant is responsible for paying for the costs of the modification unless the landlord receives federal financial assistance.  If the modification is used exclusively by the tenant then the tenant is responsible for maintenance and upkeep.  However, if the modification is in a common area normally maintained by the landlord then the landlord is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the modification.

If you are a landlord or a tenant and you have questions about a reasonable modification, we can help.  Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at  We will answer your Idaho Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate questions and will help you solve your Idaho Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate needs.


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