Workshop looks at renters’ rights
Program designed to inform local residents about laws, landlord responsibilities
For Shannon Trigg and Elizabeth Leef, finding wheelchair-accessible housing is an ongoing problem.
Trigg and Leef live in Greeley and pay for housing with federal aid.
“It’s difficult to find accessible housing that will take Section 8,” Leef said Wednesday, referring to the government housing aid she receives.
Trigg and Leef, who are wheelchair-bound and members of the State Independent Living Council, were in Craig Wednesday for a workshop about renter’s rights. The workshop was held at the Independent Living Center.
Trigg said another problem facing people in wheelchairs is appliances that aren’t accessible. She had a stove with controls on the back, which meant she had to stretch her arm over a hot burner to use them.
Part of the problem facing people in wheelchairs, Leef said, is that there is no law requiring landlords to make property accessible in a certain timeframe, even for improvements required by the Americans with Disabilities act.
It took her landlord six months to make her mailbox wheelchair accessible.
Bill Higgins, an attorney with the Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People in Grand Junction led Wednesday’s workshop.
He said the law requires landlords to make improvements “promptly,” but what exactly constitutes prompt is often left to discretion.
“There is no regulation or law that says ‘timeframe,'” Higgins said after the workshop.
He said disabled people need to patient when trying to get their landlords to make improvements.
“They need to be patient, but assertive,” Higgins said. “They need to keep working at it.”
Contacting a lawyer or getting copies of laws that say landlords have to make improvements usually gets the landlord’s attention, he said.
Higgins said the ADA and the Fair Housing Act provide protections for disabled renters, but they don’t give renters the right to ask for whatever they want.
“You can’t ask for undue hardships,” Higgins told the audience of about 25 people. “It’s not like some kind of gold check system where you get whatever you want.”
The law requires landlords to make “reasonable accommodations,” Higgins said.
The Legal Center handles accessibility issues for disabled tenants, but Higgins said the most common issue they deal with is service animals in rentals that don’t allow pets.
“Landlords can make as many rules as they want about pets,” Higgins said. “But we’re not talking about ‘pets’ here.”
Service dogs for blind people are not usually a problem, Higgins said, but seizure-alert dogs can be difficult to get landlords to accept because the need for them is not as obvious to landlords.
But, Higgins said, even in cases of seizure-alert dogs, the Legal Center has never had to go to court about a service animal.
“We always work it out,” Higgins said.
Charlotte Craft, a living skills teacher with the Independent Life Center, said Wednesday’s workshop was designed to inform local renters of their rights.
“We want to make sure people know their rights,” Craft said.
Craft said Wednesday’s workshop was the first of its kind in Craig.
Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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