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WashingtonLawHelp.orgWashington LawHelp

If you are a renter who has or might have Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
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Find out what rights you might have around being able to stay in your rental if you have or have been exposed to COVID-19. #6339EN

Contents

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*COVID-19 Update!  Eviction law is changing quickly. There are temporary bans and changes to how courts handle evictions. Things may be different depending on where you live. Get the latest information and learn about help for evictions in your area at Coronavirus (COVID-19): There are only a few reasons your landlord can evict you right now

 

Is infection with COVID-19 a disability?

Yes. Under federal or state civil rights laws, you have a disability if one of these is true:

  • You have an impairment that greatly limits at least one major life activity.

  • You have a record of having such an impairment.

  • Other people believe you have such an impairment, even if you actually do not.

The symptoms of COVID-19 include respiratory distress, having a hard time breathing, fatigue, and digestive issues. They affect your ability to care for yourself.

Even without the worst symptoms, the contagious nature of COVID-19 affects major life activities, such as working and communicating with others.

 

What is a record of impairment?

This could be if you have recovered from COVID-19, or you have been exposed to the virus and are quarantined.

 

I don't understand how the law could cover me if other people believe I have COVID-19.

An example of this is you seem to be sick and your landlord tries to evict you because the landlord assumes you have COVID-19. You do not have a disability, but the landlord believes you do.

 

What is a reasonable accommodation?

It is a change in a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary to allow a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy living in a rental.

If you have a disability, you can ask your landlord for an accommodation of your disability, if the accommodation would help you to be able to stay in the rental.

 

I have COVID-19, someone in my household has it, or I have been exposed to it. How could a reasonable accommodation help me?

You could ask for a reasonable accommodation of any symptom of your COVID-19 condition, or your household member's, that threatens your tenancy.

For example, you lost work due to COVID-19 infection. You could ask for an accommodation if you cannot pay rent or other housing-related charges. This would not excuse you from ever paying the rent.  You could ask to pay rent late without having to pay late fees or face eviction. You could ask for a payment plan.

Here are some other examples of COVID-19-related accommodations:

  • Getting more time to do yard work or other household maintenance.

  • Getting more time to hand in recertification paperwork.

  • Appointing someone to handle your affairs during your illness.

  • Changing the way you are told to pay your rent, including paying by mail.

Use the sample letter.

 

I cannot get medical proof of my disability right now. Do I need to give this proof with my reasonable accommodation request?

Doctors are spending much of their time right now on urgent cases. It may be very hard to get proof of your disability from them.

You can get proof of your disability from anyone in a position to know. This could be a support group, social worker, or other person who knows about you.

If you get disability or SSI benefits, you could show your landlord a statement from Social Security proving this. Talk to a lawyer right away for other ideas about how to prove disability.

 

Can a landlord refuse my reasonable accommodation request?

The landlord must give you what you have asked for if it is necessary to accommodate your disability and does not burden the landlord too much.

A landlord who does not give you a reasonable accommodation may be discriminating against you because of your disability. Talk to a lawyer right away.

 

I have COVID-19, or the landlord thinks I have COVID-19. Can I be evicted?

No. A landlord cannot ask you to move out or otherwise treat you differently because you have or may have a disability. This includes COVID-19.

  • Example 1: You have diabetes. The landlord cannot segregate you and other people with chronic health conditions to a particular part of a building to protect you from COVID-19 exposure.

  • Example 2: A landlord cannot evict you because you called an ambulance for a disability, such as COVID-19.

  • Example 3: Another tenant overhears you coughing in your unit. The landlord cannot evict you just for showing symptoms of COVID-19.

 

Can a landlord ask for proof that I do not​ have COVID-19?

No. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits a landlord from asking about your actual disability, or the disability the landlord thinks you may have. This includes infection with or exposure to COVID-19.

 

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help.

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Last Review and Update: Nov 30, 2020
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