The Americans with Disabilities Act increased accessibility to public spaces for people with disabilities in the United States. The Fair Housing Act covered access to rental properties.
But what about renting private spaces that are shared?
Is there an implied requirement for landlords to make their shared rental property fully accessible? A 21-year-old woman is wondering just that so she turned to the "Am I The A**hole" (AITA) subReddit for moral guidance.
Redditor Throwawaylandlord43 asked:
"AITA for refusing to modify my house for my disabled tenant?"
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
"Before you call me an AH, hear me out. I lived in a house with my disabled great aunt until about three years ago when she passed."
"She left me the deed to the house. I've been living in it ever since by myself."
"The house itself is a four-bedroom, three-bath, two-story house. My aunt had the downstairs modified to be wheelchair accessible when she became confined to a wheelchair, but she never bothered to fix up the 2nd floor because she never went up there because her room and office was downstairs."
"I eventually moved in at 14 and took over the upstairs."
"When I lost my job because of [the pandemic], I decided to rent out the extra two rooms downstairs, because I don't use them. I was very reluctant about living with a stranger, but I needed the income."
"So I eventually found Brian (26 m[ale]), who is in a wheelchair due to a car accident that left him paralyzed in his legs. He rented out both rooms, one for his bedroom and the other for an office."
"I'm not going to lie, the fact that he's in a wheelchair makes me feel better about having a stranger living in the house. Because I know he can't hurt me."
"We've been living together since June, and we get along pretty well. He's a nice guy."
"But he's been hassling me about getting one of those chair things for the stairs so he can go to the second floor, but I've been refusing. I told him that the downstairs is wheelchair accessible so there's nothing he can get upstairs that he cant get downstairs and that the upstairs is my space and he doesn't have a right to go up there."
"I think I'm NTA, but my brother disagrees. AITA?"
The OP added:
"I do realize he could still hurt me, but it would be difficult. He is totally paralyzed, absolutely no use, in the legs."
"And while I bet he does have the arm strength, I'm a 150 pound, 5'4 woman who was a powerlifter in high school. I could most definitely overpower him if need be."
"He is paying for the two rooms and use of the common areas (bathrooms—one guest and one that is privately his, living room, kitchen, dining room, backyard,). Upstairs is my room, my office, my bathroom, and a small living room at the top of the stairs."
"I do keep a mini-fridge and a microwave upstairs just for those long nights where I don't feel like going downstairs."
"I actually have no idea why he wants to go upstairs. There's a small sitting area at the top of the stairs but there's a full living room downstairs."
"He has his own bathroom attached to his bedroom and a guest bathroom. The kitchen, Living room, two bathrooms and the two rooms he is renting are all downstairs."
"He is paying for use of the rooms and the common areas. If I had rented to a non wheelchair user, then I would've just told them to not go upstairs."
Redditors were asked to weigh in by declaring:
- NTA - Not The A**hole
- YTA - You're The A**hole
- NAH - No A**holes Here
- ESH - Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors agreed the OP was not the a**hole.
"If there's nothing upstairs he needs, if he has access to the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, etc... on the main floor, and you've said the upstairs is your personal space, I say NTA."
"It's your house. I don't know about the laws etc where you are but in my opinion, if it's your personal space like your room, your office, your bathroom... he has no reason to go up there anyhow." ~ kiggles7
"OP maybe you need to make it really clear to the tenant that he will not have access to the upstairs rooms and the rental agreement does not include that space and that is the end of it. Get it in writing if you haven't already."
"Tell him outright he and any of his guests are not allowed up there, otherwise sounds like you may get an uncomfortable surprise one day. He seems to be confused and therefore keeps asking. NTA." ~ FlatwormDangerous
"NTA. He rented the 2 rooms downstairs and common area access." ~ lovebeinganasshole
But not all Redditors thought the tenant was out of line either.
"It's her space, there's no reason for him to be in her space."
"I'd actually call this NAH. It's fine for him to ask, but no one is the asshole for asking or for saying no." ~ miss_hush
"Did you explicitly tell him that access to upstairs isn't included in his lease and that the upstairs sitting area isn't a shared space?"
"You say you would have said this if he hadn't been a wheelchair user—is it possible you didn't mention it to him and he thinks it is one of the common areas that he has a right to use?"
"I agree you are NTA here, but I'm wondering if perhaps this is a NAH situation where there is just a simple misunderstanding." ~ Dizzy_Barber_2281
"NAH. You commented 'He is paying for use of the rooms and the common areas.' Is it possible he thinks the sitting area upstairs is a 'common area'?"
"It's not clear from your comments or original post whether he's clear on what is and isn't included in the rental agreement. That's why I'm going with N A H."
"It's possible he believes he's been denied access to areas he's renting because of his disability, while you're clear that any tenant would be denied access to your private areas, which is all of the upstairs."
"I'd just clarifying that only the downstairs is part of any rental agreement. Had he rented only one room, he'd have access to only the downstairs common areas and his one room.
"If someone else rented the other room they'd only have access to the downstairs common areas and their one room. If that message is clearly conveyed and he still wants the chair lift on the stairs, then I'd change my judgment to N T A." ~ LakotaGrl
"People are jumping to some weird conclusions on this thread. There's probably a miscommunication about the upstairs being a common area."
"Maybe sometimes he just wants to hang out since you said you get along well, who knows? I wouldn't instantly jump instantly to the 'he's a creep who's gonna CRAWL UP YOUR STAIRS' (?????) conclusion."
"Just clear up any misinformation (ie make sure he knows the top floor is your space and not a common area that he's paying for) and make sure you both have your private area boundaries set and clarified."
"NAH, go communicate." ~ carverrhawkee
The OP didn't provide any update for where they stand with their tenant. Reddit feels they're justified in continuing to say "no" to his request, but maybe they need to communicate the terms of their agreement better.