HRC Disability Case - Early Lease Termination

HRC won a major victory in a case that is the first of its kind.

A tenant contacted HRC for assistance in requesting a reasonable accommodation based on her disabilities.

The tenant, a female with multiple chronic physical disabilities, requested that she be allowed to break her lease early, without penalty or fee, so that she could move closer to her longtime physician to obtain necessary and urgent medical care.

She reported that shortly after moving into the rental property her medical condition declined. She experienced frequent episodes of blurry vision, dizziness, and lightheadedness, which impaired her mobility. As a result, she was frequently unable to operate a vehicle.

The tenant resided approximately 85 miles away from her medical team. She visited her physician for medical observation, treatment and medication.

As she was frequently unable to operate a vehicle, it became difficult for her to see her physician as often as medically necessary. Her condition further worsened and became increasingly unstable.

Her physician recommended in writing that she relocate to a home closer to her medical office so that she could receive the medical treatment she needed. 

HRC contacted her landlord and requested the accommodation on her behalf. The landlord refused to let her break the lease.

Subsequent attempts at communicating with the landlord, via telephone and in writing, were ignored. HRC assisted the tenant in filing a suit under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and state fair housing laws, due to the landlord’s failure to grant her disability accommodation.

The court stated that the failure to engage in the interactive process was not an independent basis for discrimination claims; however this failure could be considered in assessing whether the landlord has refused to reasonably accommodate a tenant's disability.

The court found that the landlord's complete failure to respond to the tenant's request constituted a failure to reasonably accommodate the tenant's disability in violation of the FHA, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, and the California Disabled Persons Act. Rodriguez v. Morgan, 2012 WL 253867, No CV 09-8939-GW (C.D. Cal. Jan. 26, 2012).

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