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Disabled Are Entitled to Timely Repairs too

April 25, 1993|Special to The Times

QUESTION: My son, Bill, is a 32-year-old who was born slightly mentally retarded. He has been in specialized programs and recently graduated from the local employment training program and has a steady job.

We were able, with a fair amount of negotiating, to persuade the manager at the apartments right around the corner to rent a studio unit to him. When he moved into the unit several repairs were needed (a burner on the stove and a cracked window are the most important) and we noted this on the move-in checklist.

It's been several months and no repairs have been done. The complex looks to be in very good condition, and I suspect that other tenants request for repairs are being met quicker than Bill's. We have this feeling that the manager doesn't trust Bill to take good care of the unit and is ignoring our requests because of his disability. We have made several written requests at this point, what can we do now?

ANSWER: Contact your local Fair Housing Agency, or the State Enforcement Agency with your concerns. A Fair Housing Agency would be able to conduct an investigation, which might include looking at the repair records of the complex and conducting interviews of other residents. If management is delaying repairs in your son's unit because of his disability, it is a violation of his civil rights. If management refuses to make the repairs in a timely fashion under those circumstances they could become liable in a civil lawsuit.

Whatever Happened to Adult-Only Buildings?

Q: My husband and I have been looking for a new apartment. Our youngest son just went off to college and we would like to move into a smaller apartment in a more adult-oriented setting. When I inquired at some of the condo complexes and apartment buildings in the neighborhoods we like, I was told that they all rent to children. I remember back in the '40s when we were looking for apartments that would accept our three children, we were turned away time and again because they didn't rent to children. So where are these "adult only" buildings when I finally want to live in one?

A: In 1988 the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Acts was passed. This law prohibits discrimination against all the protected classes, and expanded the definition to include children and people with disabilities.

The answer to your question is there are no more adult-only apartment buildings. The one exception is housing specifically designed for seniors that adheres to very specific rules. Under federal law, housing for older persons is to be solely occupied by persons 62 or older, or housing intended for people over 55 that has special facilities for older residents and is 80% occupied by people 55 or older.

Pick-Up Driver Denied Apartment

Q: Recently I tried to rent an apartment in a complex of "professionals." I have more than enough money to pay the rent, but the manager told me he would not rent to me because I would be parking my pickup truck at the complex. I work in construction and drive a full-sized work truck with the company logo on the side. The truck is not a commercial-size vehicle. Is it illegal for the manager to discriminate against me because he thinks my pick-up truck makes me lower class?

A: As long as you qualify for the unit, the manager cannot legally deny renting to you according to the Unruh Civil Rights Act. Management does have the right to enforce safety rules, and sensible rules in regards to number of vehicles, inoperative vehicles and vehicles that exceed reasonable noise levels.

To single out a particular type of vehicle that exemplifies a certain type of "class" would be considered a form of arbitrary discrimination. By banning you from the complex, management is penalizing you for owning and driving a particular vehicle which, in turn, makes unfair assumptions about whether you would "fit in" there. You should point this out to management or contact your local fair housing agency.

Manager Cannot Stop 'Meals on Wheels'

Q: I live in a residential hotel in San Francisco and I have AIDS. I have been receiving my meals from Project Open Hand, a "Meals on Wheels" type program, but the manager has told me that they cannot deliver my meals to me anymore. I need to know what I can do about this situation.

A: The manager of the hotel needs to allow your meals to continue to be delivered to you. Federal law allows for managers and owners of rental property to make reasonable accommodations concerning the needs of a handicapped individual and the delivery of meals should qualify as such an accommodation.

When Project Open Hand volunteers enter a security building or a hotel with a front desk they do identify themselves as Project Open Hand Volunteers, but they are trained to be as discrete as possible. According to Project Open Hand 90% of the clients receiving deliveries from Open Hand do not encounter any difficulties, and it may be reassuring to the manager to know this. If you continue to have a problem give your local fair housing agency a call.

This column is prepared by Project Sentinel, a rental housing mediation service in Sunnyvale, Calif. Questions may be sent to 582-B Dunholme Way, Sunnyvale, Calif. 94087, but cannot be answered individually. For help in the Los Angeles area, call the Metro Harbor Fair Housing Council at (213) 539-6191 or the Westside Fair Housing Council at (310) 475-9671.

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