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Q&A: Access for Disabled Tenant

September 16th, 2013

Q: I have been living in a rent-stabilized apartment since 1981. Now I am old and sick and need to get around in a wheelchair. There are six steps to the elevator in the lobby. The basement can be reached from a ramp on the street, but the door at the bottom of the ramp is locked for security reasons. The landlord says I just have to call the superintendent when I need to use the ramp, but he is often not home when I need him. Is the landlord required to give me a copy of the basement door key or build a ramp to the lobby for me?

A: Landlords are required to provide what the law calls a “reasonable accommodation” for tenants with disabilities, according to Adam Leitman Bailey, a Manhattan real estate lawyer. “But the law does not dictate specifics as to what these accommodations must be,” he said.

The landlord must provide the tenant with 24-hour access to the building, but “just because a tenant thinks something in particular is the answer to the problem does not mean that the landlord has to adopt that particular solution,” Mr. Adam Leitman Bailey said. If, for example, the landlord gave the superintendent the ability to unlock the basement door electronically through a smartphone application, and required the super to always be available to take a call, most courts would find the landlord had done enough, he said. “The solution has to be both effective and reasonable,” he added.

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