The world is comforting when it makes sense. When all the tenants are happy, everyone has what they need, and the parking has all been worked out then there feels like order to the crazy world. That feeling is nice, and it’s nice when everything makes sense. It’s such a welcoming feeling because sometimes the world doesn’t make sense.
The world would be lovely if everyone always had what they needed. It would be lovely if people came forward with their needs, those needs were provided for and after that, everything just went smoothly. The problem is that accidents happen, things change, and tenants have new needs arise that sometimes you need to handle.
It’s one thing to rent out a property to a tenant that has spoken about a disability. You know what they’ll need and then you can properly prepare during the application process. You can check for the necessary parking, elevator maintenance (if your property has an elevator), and other forms of access that you would need to have prepared.
What happens when instead, your tenant develops a disability mid-lease?
Sudden and unexpected physical disabilities are pretty rare. When they happen, they happen on the eve of tragedy. Sudden illnesses and accidents can cause damage to the human body leaving someone in need of help.
You cannot plan for accidents. One can guess that after an accident, your tenant will be in the hospital for some amount of time that might give you the chance to prepare, but most likely, no one is listing the landlord as the emergency contact. As a landlord, you need to prepare for the unexpected.
As always, the first step is to check your local law. Many states have laws that give tenants the right to terminate their leases early because of a need to relocate.
For example: in Nevada, tenants with disability (mental or physical) or tenants that are sixty years or older may terminate their leases based on their need for care or treatment that their current rental unit does not allow for. (NRS 118A.340)
Check with a local lawyer about what your responsibilities are, how soon you need to act on them, and how to move forward.
Most likely your tenant will let you know if they plan to move. In the meantime, try covering a few bases. Can they enter the front door with relative ease? If there is a step in front of the doorway, they may need a ramp to get through. How is the parking? Is there often another car parked beside them that would make it difficult for them to get out of the car? Can their parking spot be moved to somewhere a little easier to space out?
What about a mental disability?
A slight bump to the head may cause a concussion, and if Will Smith’s performance taught us anything, they are not to be taken lightly. There is a slew of cognitive impairments to be aware of, but one of the most common ones is pinned to aging. As people get older, it may be more difficult to remember things. If an elderly tenant has begun to have trouble remembering that today is the day that rent is due. The ADA protects having ‘physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity’ of which memory is included. For a landlord, that may mean finding a new way to accept rent from your tenant or having it a day or so late.
Developing a disability out of the blue is very tough. A landlord not standing by and performing their proper duties isn’t just legally dangerous for that landlord, but makes all the more difficult for those who are suffering.
Do you have a game plan for tenants developing disabilities mid-lease? Let us know in the comments!