Earlier today I did a presentation concerning steps professional apartment management companies can (and indeed should) take to avoid fair housing complaints. I was pleased with the attendance and audience participation. Included in the audience was at least one HUD official -- so I was on my best behavior.

I got a number of questions concerning reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification requests. Specifically, I was asked, how long should it take for management to respond to an accommodation request?

Of course, there is no magic number of days. The test is what is "reasonable" under the specific circumstances. Nevertheless, it is always my advice for management to promptly send out an interim response noting that we have received your request and that we are actively reviewing it.

I have been involved with cases where management waited between six and twelve months to respond. Obviously, that is far too long and has led to fair housing issues at those communities. If the request requires immediate attention -- such as a disability which now prevents a resident from getting to her apartment, management needs to immediately act. If the request is for something not urgent, management should still respond with a reasonable period of time -- I try to urge management to act within at least a couple of weeks.

Again, management does not have to grant the exact accommodation sought by the resident. There are, however, certainly times we can and should do precisely what is requested. But, even in those circumstances where we cannot, management must still respond and attempt to develop an accommodation to meet the resident's needs.