Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Planning Now for Tenants with AIDS

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Planning Now for Tenants with AIDS

Article excerpt

Planning now for tenants with AIDS

As the incidence of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) increases, most apartment managers will have an infected person as a tenant at some point. By formulating policies now, managers may be able to avoid a crisis and potential legal problems later.

Housing professionals should work with an attorney who understands the increasing number of state and local laws prohibiting discrimination against AIDS victims. They should also follow efforts in Congress and at HUD to formulate federal policies on treatment of AIDS victims in housing management.

AIDS is the final manifestation of infection by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). There are three categories of persons infected with the HIV. Those who are not sick at all are commonly said to be asymptomatic carriers. Persons who have illnesses but not AIDS are said to suffer from AIDS-Related Complex (ARC). Persons with AIDS are in the final, fatal stage of HIV infection.

The distinctions among the three stages of infection are important for brokers and property managers. For managers of federally assisted properties, the three stages provide a framework for deciding who must be admitted and who may be excluded from occupancy.

A property manager's responsibility with respect to a tenant or applicant infected with HIV will depend on whether that person can be considered handicapped or disabled. If so, he or she would be protected by federal, state, and local laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of handicap.

Discrimination on the basis of a handicap is now part of the Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Right Act of 1968). At the federal level, Sec. 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits recipients of federal assistance from discriminating on the basis of handicap.

There is no policy defining whether HIV infection constitutes a handicap or disability under HUD programs. However, existing case law suggests that the presence of AIDS is sufficient to bring someone within the protection of the Vocational Rehab Act. Thus, AIDS would not be permissible grounds to evict a tenant or deny an application for housing assistance.

Whether persons suffering from ARC are protected by Sec. 504 has yet to be clearly addressed and will likely depend on the condition of the particular housing applicant or tenant. The status of asymptomatic carriers is even less clear. The best course is probably to treat them no differently from any other tenant or applicant in applying eligibility and eviction criteria.

In general, AIDS victims are likely to be sufficiently impaired to meet most definitions of handicap. Persons with ARC may or may not be sufficiently impaired to be considered handicapped. Asymptomatic carriers have no physical impairement and can be considered handicapped only under a very broad definition.

The definition of handicap also affects eligibility for Sec. 8 or other federal housing assistance. Many persons with AIDS are single and would not be eligible for Sec. 8 assistance under normal circumstances. However, single persons would become eligible if they have a disability or illness, as defined by law. They would still have to meet normal income eligibility criteria.

Resident concerns

The needs of the HIV-infected individual is only one part of the equation. Property owners may have to address the concerns of other tenants or resident managers who fear the prospect of being in contact with a person infected with HIV. …

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