Navigating Housing on Disability Benefits

Q: Do disability benefits recipients have a right to accessible housing?

Applying for disability benefits can be a long and complex process, complicated further by the extremely high incidence of initial denials of applications and the subsequent extended waiting for an appeal that denial.

With 2/3 of initial applications being denied and a backlog of up to two years for an appeal hearing, hiring a skilled Arizona Social Security disability benefits attorney may increase the likelihood of that either an initial application or an appeal will be successful. It doesn’t cost anything out-of-pocket to do so.

When a gainfully-employed individual becomes disabled mentally or physically as a result of an illness, accident, or injury and is suddenly unable to continue to work, their and their whole family’s life can be turned upside down. In addition to the possible pain associated with the disabling condition, there’s the financial stress of losing an income – – and the long wait before benefits kick in. During this time, it’s not uncommon that applicants will blow through their savings and possibly lose or need to sell their homes and find affordable apartment housing.

Even with Social Security disability benefits (“SSDI”) or Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), it can be challenging to afford housing, much less housing that is designed to accommodate particular disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, (“ADA”) mandates that public places where people work be handicapped-accessible, but it doesn’t apply for residential housing beyond the public spaces of a residential housing building – such as a clubroom, gym, leasing office and a public bathroom. This leaves cash-strapped disabled people at a disadvantage in accessing an apartment suited for their needs.

There is some protection for the disabled under The Fair Housing Act which provides that prospective landlords can’t discriminate based on a tenant’s disability. It also bars a landlord from renting a disabled tenant an inaccessible unit or “refusing reasonable requests to make modifications that make it more accessible”.

But unfortunately, the landlord is not required to pay for those modifications or to pay the cost of returning the modified apartment to its original state when the disabled tenant vacates.

While it’s not a guarantee of suitability, newer complexes, with four or more units, built after March 31,1991 are required to meet “certain accessibility requirements”. In addition, societal pressure to make accessible apartments has led to newer apartment buildings “being designed with accessibility in mind”.

If you have questions regarding Social Security disability benefits, or need help applying for or appealing a denial of disability benefits, the disability experts at Roeschke Law can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent disabled individuals and their families throughout Arizona.