Home Owner Associations and ADA Accommodations

| Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 | 10 Comments »

There’s some large confusion as to whether or not HOAs are required by the ADA to provide accommodations.

The logic that follows is simply this:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is Civil Law that requires that places of public accommodation provide reasonable accommodations so as to allow members of the public to have access to all goods and services. The ADA is not building code and cannot be grandfathered in that way.

Home Owner Associations are in general, private entities, but may have areas that are open to the public. For example, a pool that is open to the public (but charges), guest parking, a leasing office or rooms that can be rented for are all areas that are public accommodations. Those areas definitely fall under the auspices of the ADA.

This does not mean that HOAs are exempt from the ADA however. For areas that are the exclusive use of a tenant, those areas must be allowed to be made accessible by the tenant for their own disability which includes entering and exiting a building.

Additionally, should the HOA remodel, or upgrade any of their areas, local building code would apply. For California, this definitely means Chapter 11A (which has disability requirements — causing the ADA to kick in).

This area of law does get trickier as local ordinances and other state specific laws come into play. Overall, our recommendation is that an HOA should become accessible whenever possible, to help their aging residents and avoid future litigation issues.

Unfortunately, many HOAs seem to think that resident accessibility is cosmetic or somehow not applicable to them. Some interesting links here include a story about an HOA that seems to think it doesn’t need to allow for easy ingress and egress for their residents:

AURORA, Colo. — A fight over a wheelchair ramp is pitting neighbor against neighbor at an Aurora condo complex.

69-year-old Charlotte Vaile rented the ramps with her own money after the elevator at the Bayberry Condo complex broke down, “because I can’t get in and out of the building,” she said.

Charlotte says she asked the HOA for permission to install the ramp, but the board didn’t get back to her right away.

Once the ramp was installed, the HOA promptly took it down. A board member told Charlotte the building does not have to comply with the American’s with disabilities Act because it was built before the law took effect.

Charlotte called the Aurora Fire department, and they put the ramp back up.

But the HOA is now refusing to make the 2nd and 3rd floors accessible to several other disabled people who live there.

Cathi Fort is also a disabled vet, and she lives on the 2nd floor. She told FOX31 Denver, “I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own home.”

FOX31 contacted the Bayberry Condo Association President and we were referred to the president of the property management company.

Lynda Reifman said the board “took the ramp down because they wanted the opportunity to review Charlotte’s request before she put it up.”

And when we asked Reifman what would happen to the other disabled if there was a fire in the building, she said, “the fire department will get them out, that’s their job.

If you want further resources regarding one law firm’s grasp of the ADA as it applies to HOAs, you can turn here.

The Americans with Disabilities Act and Accommodating the Disabled.

So the Takeaway from all this is that if you are an HOA be very careful.  You must not deny your tenants safe access in and out of their residences.

You could be a place of public accommodation have then you have to comply ASAP!

If you are fairly certain you’re not, also be careful, because your residents could at any point have a medical need for a ramp, or some other accommodation.  It’s of course better to become accessible, even if you don’t think you are — for future (and present) liability but if you choose to do work, that also could trigger the ADA.

You may be required to set aside an additional 20% of your budget just for ADA upgrades.

If you are an HOA or part of an HOA and have questions as to the applicability of the ADA, please contact an attorney. In general, if you take money from your residents you must consider their current and future needs (hint: egress and ingress are far more important than comestics).  Also, always also get a licensed and bonded contractor to do accessibility work — as many contractors aren’t always familiar with this area of law. If you have any questions for us, you can contact me at help@accesssolutionllc.com or 866 982 3212.


  1. jerry says:

    You are mistaken. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, is not a simplistic civil law. It is a Civil Rights Law for People with Disabilities. It is an ant-discrimination law. No, HOAs are not exempt from the law as a “private” entity, no more then a corporation is. An HOA is NOT a private club it’s an assocation of property owners which come and come over time. The only organization above the Law is Congress because it’s members write the laws. However HOAs do not write any laws and are there fore subject to them as any citizen is.

  2. Yours Truly Accessibility says:

    I am sorry if I have given you the wrong impression. I am not arguing the intent of the law. I am merely describing its application. Of course HOAs must provide accessible entrances in and out of their facilities at the very least. That’s what makes this news story news.

  3. The requirements of the ADA does not recognize any so called (Grandfather law) meaning it does not matter when the building was constructed.Disabled people have a right to live in a home where they can exit quickly when there is a catastrophic fire, and from what i read from the ADA, the home owner is entitled to the ramp as an accomidation to get out of their home.


  4. cece says:

    HOA private entity
    If a member becomes disabled (immobility) and shares a carport with a neighbor who stores a boat/trailer instead of an automoble (as CC&RS state) and blocks them from access in and out of carport because of stored truck outside carport and storage closet (carport take-over) HOA will not enforce the no trailer rule and will not have this removed. Will the grandfather rule apply or just be ruled out as (estoppel). Does ADA apply in this case.

  5. Yours Truly Accessibility says:

    I don’t know the details but in general, the ADA does apply, if someone is disabled and requires accommodations.

  6. Yours Truly Accessibility says:

    Part of the fair housing act, states that service animals are not pets. They are allowed in the complex. “Seeing eye dogs” are, of course, the most obvious example of this. This is further defined under the ADA. Your complex needs to allow this renter to keep his service animal, otherwise the complex stands to be sued.

    The issue as to what is or is not a service animal beyond “seeing eye dogs” is a complex on-going issue that is up for litigation however, so this is something that probably needs to be litigated or negotiated.

    Hope this answers your question.

  7. Barbara says:

    I have a different situation I’m disabled and was unable to keep my landscape up to their standards ther were fining me fifty a month if not more. I live on ss disability can not hire someone so I removed all the offensive bushes left to manageable trees and in process of laying a true as landscape rocks some boulder a fountain and it look neat and clean. Now I got a summons to go to court for removing the plants. The funny thing is they were building a home across the street the landscaper came took all the plants I removed and installed them I’m my neighbors yard. What am I to do I tried to make it look clean well kept and manageable because I can’t take care of the plants nor afford the fifty to one hundred they r billing me for not trimming them. It’s not laziness it’s illness any help anyone can provide would be appreciated they have served a summons to appear from the court. Email me at barbara_domanski@yahoo.com with answers or other agencies I can get help from desperate frustrated and broke

  8. Jill says:

    I am a homeowner and our HOA will not allow me to teach tennis on our tennis courts because they say the tennis courts aren’t ADA approved. Wouldn’t they have to make the courts ADA approved regardless if I teach tennis on them or not?Your allowed four guests which would make the courts open to the public now. No one has complained about the usage of the courts to ADA. I am completely confused.

  9. Bonni says:

    I have a town home that is govrned by an HOA. I had cement steppingstones in the hoa area for20 years that goto my back gate. My current tennent is elderly and has disabilities. She complained that the stepping stones were not safe for her to
    walk on. I replaced them with a more level and solid surface of flags ston. My HOA has sent me a violation letter. Then I applied to make the change and told them the reason I made the change. My application and request was denied. What can I do to protect my tenants safety.

  10. Larry Harmon says:

    My wife and I bought our Condo ten years ago, about a year ago she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. We live in the lower unit and access through the main entrance is means going up and down stairs. In the back the patio is at ground level. My wife requires the use of a walker for safety, since the disease effects her balance and she has fallen numerous times, one resulting in a broken rib and a concussion. We requested that a pathway be provided to allow her better access with her walker. The request was accompanied with a letter from her doctor which stated that she needed a safer way to go in and out of our unit. The board denied the request, I contacted a board member and he stated that the area was too steep and that their lawyer stated that the board was not required to provide a pathway for her.