Reasonable vs. Unreasonable Accommodation Requests in Public Housing: 5 Key Differences

A disabled woman sitting in a wheelchair, washing the dishes

Public housing in the United States is governed by a framework of laws and regulations designed to ensure fair housing practices for all citizens. 

One important aspect of this framework is the requirement for reasonable accommodations for disabled people

While the law is clear about the necessity of providing reasonable accommodations, it’s equally essential to understand the distinction between reasonable and unreasonable accommodation requests.

Related Webinars
The ADA-Required Interactive Process: Guidance for Complying with the Requirements (2019 Updates)
Speaker: Melissa Fleischer, Esq
Learn More
Reasonable Accommodation with New HUD Updates on Assistive Animals
Speaker: Paul Flogstad
Learn More
New HUD Guidance on Reasonable Accommodations / Assistance Animals
Speaker: Paul Flogstad
Learn More

This blog will delve into the key differences between these two categories, from the perspective of U.S. fair housing compliance.

Reasonable vs. Unreasonable Accommodation Requests:

AspectReasonable AccommodationUnreasonable Accommodation
DefinitionA modification or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that allows individuals with disabilities to have equal access to housing opportunities.A request that does not align with the criteria of being reasonable and necessary to ensure equal access.
ReasonablenessThe request must be reasonable, meaning it does not impose an undue financial or administrative burden on the housing provider and does not fundamentally alter the nature of the housing program.The request is unreasonable when it imposes an excessive financial burden, disrupts the housing program significantly, or is unrelated to the individual’s disability.
NecessityThe accommodation must be necessary for the person with a disability to enjoy equal housing opportunities, as it is among the federally protected classes by FHAThe accommodation is unnecessary or not directly related to the individual’s disability.
DocumentationTenants must provide documentation of their disability and explain how the requested accommodation is related to their disability.Tenants may fail to provide adequate documentation or do not demonstrate the connection between their request and their disability.
Interactive ProcessThe housing provider and tenant engage in an interactive dialogue to determine the appropriateness of the accommodation and explore alternative solutions if needed.The tenant may not engage in good-faith dialogue, or there may be a lack of willingness to find mutually acceptable solutions.
Example 1A tenant with a mobility impairment requests the installation of a wheelchair ramp at the entrance to their apartment building. This is reasonable because it ensures equal access to the housing facility.A tenant without a disability requests the removal of a staircase in a multi-story apartment building, even though this would be excessively costly and disruptive. This is unreasonable because it does not align with the criteria of being reasonable and necessary.
Example 2A tenant with a visual impairment requests an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation to assist with daily tasks and is willing to submit pet deposits. This is reasonable because it is necessary for the tenant’s disability-related needs.A tenant requests an accommodation for a pet under the guise of it being a “support animal” without providing proper documentation of a disability-related need. This is unreasonable because it lacks the necessary documentation and connection to a disability.


Fair housing compliance in the United States mandates that individuals with disabilities have equal access to housing opportunities through reasonable accommodations. 

However, it’s crucial to distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable accommodation requests.

By following the principles outlined in this blog, housing providers can navigate this complex terrain while ensuring that individuals with disabilities are granted the accommodations they need without imposing undue burdens or risks on the housing program. 

Striking this balance is fundamental to upholding the principles of fair housing for all Americans. 

For free training webinars on such topics, explore our website.

Stay Updated

Don’t miss any latest Affordable Housing update

Share Now

About Us

At Affordable Housing Updates, we are dedicated to offering top-quality insights. news, articles and free webinars on Affordable Housing Property Management

Recent Posts

FInd the Latest

Affordable Housing Updates

In Your Inbox

confirm your email

Your signup is almost complete! Please check your email for a confirmation message.