Reasonable Accommodation and Reasonable Modification

Reasonable Accommodation and Reasonable Modification

What is reasonable accomodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a change or waiver to a policy, practice, procedure or service to allow equal opportunity in housing for persons with disabilities. Common examples of reasonable accommodations: Large print, waiving of a “no pets” policy due to an assistive animal or a request for transfer to a ground-floor unit. Please see the Metro Housing|Boston “Fact Sheet: Fair Housing for Persons with Disabilities” for more general information on disability and fair housing.

What is a reasonable modification?

A reasonable modification is a physical alteration to a unit or common-use area to allow a person with a disability greater accessibility and use of the premises. Common examples of reasonable modifications: Grab bars, ramp, roll-in shower, widening of doorway, flashing doorbells, handrails or signage.

How do I make a reasonable accommodation/reasonable modification request?

You may make the request verbally or in writing. A written request is recommended. The request must explain the direct connection between the request and the disability. Housing providers are allowed to have standard request forms but they cannot insist that you use them. The Reasonable Accommodation request form can be found HERE.

How do I prepare to make a reasonable accommodation/reasonable modification request?

Identify your specific need and the strategies you would like to address the need. To increase your chances for approval consider whether the need and/or strategy would fall within the allowable reasons for denial. If it does, develop an alternative.

Can the housing provider deny my reasonable accommodation/reasonable modification request?

Yes, your request can be denied if it will 1) cause an undue administrative and financial burden, 2) if the request will change the basic nature of the housing program, or if 3) there is no direct connection between your disability and your request. If your request does not meet any of these standards, then it must be approved. However, even if the denial is allowable under the law, the housing provider must offer an alternative.

Do I need to provide proof of my disability?

It depends, proof of disability can only be requested if the disability is not apparent or is unknown. For example, someone who uses a wheelchair would not need to prove they have a disability. However an individual with a psychiatric disability may need to provide healthcare provider documentation.

What type of healthcare documentation is required?

A healthcare provider may submit a letter stating their patient is a person with a disability and due to the disability, a reasonable accommodation/reasonable modification is needed. Only the information that is absolutely necessary should be provided to connect the disability to the request. The nature and severity of the disability should not be disclosed. The health care provider can be a primary physician, nurse, nurse practitioner, licensed social worker, counselor, psychologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, service provider, rehab counselor etc.

Is confidentiality required?

Yes, all healthcare or disability related information must be kept confidential by the housing provider. Only staff directly involved in reviewing reasonable accommodation/modification requests should know of your situation. Your information should not become common knowledge.

Who must pay for the reasonable modification cost?

  • Property Owner Pays: Under Massachusetts CH 151B, if the property is directly government funded or if there are 10 or more or contiguous units, the owner must pay for the reasonable modification.
  • Tenant Pays: If the housing does not meet either of the above conditions, the person requesting the reasonable modification must pay the costs for the modification.

How must the request be implemented and who completes the reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification?

If approved, the reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification must be implemented in a timely fashion. The time frame for implementation will vary depending on the complexity of the specific request. A more intensive reasonable modification may take longer to fully complete. For a reasonable modification, the housing provider can impose reasonable conditions such as it must be completed in a professional and code compliant manner and done by a licensed and insured person. Failure to complete the reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification in a timely and good faith manner is considered a denial.

Is there financial assistance available for owners who must provide reasonable modifications?

Yes, the Home Modification Loan Program (HMLP) provides low-and no-interest loans to make modifications to the homes of elders, adults with disabilities, and families with children with disabilities. For further information contact Metro Housing|Boston at (617) 425-6637.

Where can I receive more information on reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications from Metro Housing|Boston?

You may contact the Metro Housing|Boston Fair Housing Advocate at (617) 425-6703 or the Metro Housing|Boston Senior Advisor on Civil Rights and Fair Housing at (617) 425-6681. You may also contact any of the agencies below.

MA Commission Against Discrimination
One Ashburton Place
Rm. 601
Boston, MA 02108
Phone: (617) 994-6000
TTY: (617) 994-6196

Cambridge Human Rights Commission
51 Inman Street, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02139
Phone: (617) 349-4396
TTY: (617) 492-0235

Boston Fair Housing Commission
1 City Hall Plaza
Boston, MA 0220
Phone: (617) 635.4408

10 Causeway Street
Boston, MA 02222-1092
Phone: (617) 994-8300 or
(800) 827-5005
TTY: (617) 565-5453

Fair Housing Accessibility First
Phone: (888) 341-7781

*Although this fact sheet contains legal information it should not be interpreted as providing legal advice. Please contact an attorney if you seek legal advice and/or representation.

For help with fair housing matter please contact the Fair Housing Project by email at or call  (617) 425-6681.

Communities we serve

Metro Housing|Boston serves individuals and families, as well property owners, in 30 communities throughout Greater Boston.

  • Arlington
  • Bedford
  • Belmont
  • Boston
  • Braintree
  • Brookline
  • Burlington
  • Cambridge
  • Chelsea
  • Everett
  • Lexington
  • Lynn*
  • Malden
  • Medford
  • Melrose
  • Milton
  • Newton
  • North Reading
  • Quincy
  • Reading
  • Revere
  • Somerville
  • Stoneham
  • Wakefield
  • Waltham
  • Watertown
  • Wilmington
  • Winchester
  • Winthrop
  • Woburn

*Metro Housing|Boston does not administer RAFT, Voucher Programs, or HomeBASE assistance in Lynn. See Lynn Housing Authority.
*In addition to the 30 communities listed above, Metro Housing|Boston administers rental voucher programs in Holbrook, Randolph, and Weymouth. If you are specifically seeking RAFT assistance in those communities,
you must apply instead to Housing Solutions. (