Descriptions of recent Access Living Legal Work

Below are short descriptions of five cases handled by Access Living. The cases give a snapshot of the Fair Housing legal work done by Access Living.

1. Our client has a physical disability and uses a power wheelchair at all times for mobility. He rents an apartment in a subsidized building for seniors and people with disabilities. Because of his disability, the client relies on personal attendants to assist him with activities of daily living.

Building management sent the client a letter stating it would not renew his lease because, in its judgment, the client was unable to care for himself and his apartment due to his disability. Management based its decision on its Independent Living Policy, which gave it the authority to terminate a tenancy if it determined that a resident could not live independently.

Due to our advocacy, management ultimately agreed to renew the client’s lease. However, it refused to eliminate its Independent Living Policy, despite our assertion that the Policy violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Act.

Accordingly, we filed an administrative complaint with HUD to force management to rescind the Policy. Soon after we filed the complaint, management quashed the Policy.

2. We represented a woman with a physical disability whose housing choice voucher had been terminated because she had not secured a unit within the time allotted to do so. However, the CHA, which administers the voucher program in Chicago, did not assist her in the search and did not grant her an extension of time to find housing. Had the CHA done so, our client likely would have found a unit. To challenge the termination, we requested and were granted an informal hearing before the CHA. At the hearing, we argued that the voucher should be reinstated because the CHA had not assisted our client in her search for housing. Our main argument was that the CHA was aware of our client’s disability, but had not offered any assistance to her, even though the CHA’s Administrative Plan requires the CHA to provide certain services and assistance to voucher holders with disabilities in their search for housing. The hearing officer ruled in our client’s favor and reinstated her voucher.

3. We represented a woman with a physical disability who lives in an apartment that prohibits dogs. The client needed a service dog to help her stand, negotiate steps, sit down, and perform other physical tasks. She asked apartment management to permit her to have the dog, but management refused. After we investigated the matter, we sent a letter to management to ask that it allow the dog as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act. This led to a period of negotiation after which management approved the dog.

4. We advocated on behalf of a woman whose adult son has a psychiatric disability. The client rents an apartment using a housing choice voucher administered by the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC). The woman was at risk for having her son removed from the voucher, and her home, due to the son’s arrest for a property crime. HACC has a strict policy on criminal activity involving voucher participants, which can lead to the loss of voucher assistance. We sent a demand letter to HACC. In the letter, we asked HACC to allow the son to remain on the voucher, as a reasonable accommodation to its policy, because the son’s behavior emanated from his disability. HACC approved the request, which secured housing for our client and her son.

5. We assisted a woman with a visual disability who, along with all other residents, received a non-renewal/request to vacate notice from her landlord. The landlord planned to demolish the apartment building. Due to our client’s disability, she was unable to secure alternative housing and vacate by the deadline set by the landlord. We sent a demand letter to the landlord to request additional time to vacate, as a reasonable accommodation. The landlord approved the request.