The owner of a property I manage has a prospective tenant who is disabled and in a wheelchair, but the property he wants to lease isn’t ADA compliant. The prospective tenant wants to build a ramp to the front door and widen two bathroom doors. He also wants to install grab bars in the bathroom, which would require reinforcing the walls with blocking between the studs to affix the grab bars. What modifications is the owner required to make to accommodate the tenant?


If the prospect becomes a tenant, the landlord must reasonably accommodate him to avoid discrimination allegations. In this case, the landlord must permit the accommodations described because they’re reasonable. To protect both parties, the lease that they sign should address who will arrange for the modifications, who will make decisions regarding workmen and materials, and who will pay for the modifications.


For example, the lease may provide that the tenant will pay the cost either directly to any contractor or by reimbursement to the landlord; or the lease may provide that the landlord will make the modifications in exchange for a concession, such as an increase in the rent based on the cost of the modifications.


The parties may also agree on whether the property will be restored when the tenant moves out, which should be covered in the lease along with the cost of any restoration. However, any required restoration must be reasonable. A test for reasonableness is whether an ordinary subsequent tenant would be affected by the modifications. For example, the removal of grab bars in the bath and removal of the ramp would be reasonable requirements.


However, it would be unreasonable for the landlord to require the tenant to remove the blocking for the grab bars, since the reinforced walls will not interfere in any way with the landlord’s or the next tenant’s use and enjoyment of the property. Also, the restoration of wider doors to more narrow doors is likely not to be reasonable if the doors were increased from 24 inches to 30 inches, or something similar.

Reprint from Texas Association of Realtors