Pixabay | Steve Buissinne

Disabled Tenant Demands Access Upstairs, Even Though He Only Rents Two Lower Rooms

Amy Pilkington 8 Nov 2020

There are clear rules about accessibility when it comes to businesses and personal housing, but things get a bit more gray when a shared space becomes involved.

Whether it's a roommate situation or a room rental agreement, things can get dicy when the boundaries and expectations are unclear.

That's where this story from the r/AmItheAsshole subreddit sits.

Reddit | Throwawaylandlord43

A homeowner posted the question looking for clarity on who is in the wrong in the scenario.

For anonymity, she chose to post the question under a fake account named Throwawaylandlord43, so for the sake of clarity in telling the story, I'll just call her Landlord.

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Landlord begins by explaining that she's 21 years old and inherited her house from her great aunt three years ago.

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Her great aunt had been in a wheelchair and had the entire main floor converted to be accessible, but never bothered to extend the renovations to the upper level.

Landlord herself moved in at 14 and got the whole top floor to herself.

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Like many people in 2020, Landlord was laid off due to the pandemic.

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Since she wasn't using the two lower bedrooms that used to belong to her great aunt, she decided to try renting them out for a bit of extra income.

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As a young woman living alone, she was worried about bringing in a stranger, but the idea of living on separate floors helped.

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When a young man named Brian, who uses a wheelchair, expressed interest in renting both rooms, she thought it was perfect.

She was happy to provide an accessible home for someone in a similar situation as her great aunt.

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The added knowledge that he couldn't sneak upstairs in the night helped her feel more comfortable with the whole idea.

Unsplash | Micah Carlson

At first, this seemed to be a great arrangement.

"We've been living together since June, and we get along pretty well," she said, "He's a nice guy."

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But then for some reason, Brian began to say that she should get a chair lift installed on the staircase.

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She told him that she didn't think she needed to because there was nothing up there he required access to, but he keeps on insisting.

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Her brother told her that he thinks Landlord is being an asshole for refusing.

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However, Landlord doesn't think she's out of line and cannot figure out why Brian would even want to go up there in the first place.

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His rent is for the two private rooms, plus use of the common kitchen and living room areas.

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There is also a private ensuite off one of his rooms and a second guest bathroom on the main floor.

Upstairs is two other bedrooms, one of which Landlord uses as her office, and another bathroom that was presumably never renovated with wheelchair access in mind.

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The landing at the top of the stairs is large enough that Landlord has given herself a small sitting area, but that's it.

Unsplash | Megan Markham

She says that she's also got a mini-fridge and a microwave up in her office for days when she doesn't feel like going downstairs.

So why would Brian want to go up there and is she in the wrong for not making the upstairs accessible to him?

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Overwhelmingly, the answer was Not The Asshole (NTA), but with some advice and caution too.

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"NTA-There’s no reason he needs to be going upstairs. The part of the house he is renting is in fact accessible," said GothPenguin, adding, "I feel the need to caution you however. The fact that he is a wheelchair user doesn’t mean he would be incapable of causing you harm."

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Most agreed that the fact Brian is in a wheelchair is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

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Tikithing said about the stairs: "It's not about accessibility here, they're just a clearly defined boundary.

As the owner of the home, Landlord is allowed to set the rules about what is a "common area" and what isn't.

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Some questions about the law were raised, but the Fair Housing Act doesn't apply to renting rooms in a private home.

Unsplash | Bill Oxford

However, many made the reasonable recommendation that Landlord double-check the exact wording on the rental agreement she and Brian signed, just in case.

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They also said that she should make the terms completely clear to him and let him know that the request makes her uncomfortable.

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Janefryer summed it up best:

"If he persists in trying to get up into her private space; she has the right to evict him. She isn't being discriminatory against him, and has provided him with the ideal rental; so the least he could do is to respect the boundaries that he agreed to, at the time he signed the contract. He doesn't have the right to make his landlord feel uncomfortable and afraid."

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It's understandable that as a first time landlord and young woman, she'd be nervous about such a thorny topic.

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Ultimately, his wheelchair is irrelevant to the underlying issue.

Had he the use of his legs and the access to her private space was blocked by a locked door, he would be out of line to insist on being given a key.

But what do you think?

h/t: Reddit

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