What your community association can/must do to help handicap residents

Communication Community Associations Condominium Associations HOA Owning a home in an association

When confronted with situations regarding accessibility amenities for handicap residents, a community association has two options: legal compliance versus doing the right thing.
Often it’s a matter of waving certain rules in order to adjust to the needs of residents who find themselves in need of certain kinds of additional accessibility.
In other words, sooner or later we all might need a little help getting around. A homeowners association can play a key role in providing that kind of assistance for its residents.
Handicap residents and Fair Housing Act compliance
As it is written into the bylaws, some community associations reserve the right to accept or reject a new resident.
However, the federal Fair Housing Act puts into place several restrictions with regard to the criteria for a possible rejection.
According to the FHA, no one should be denied housing as a renter or as a potential buyer based on that individual’s

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • Familial status
  • National origin.

The Fair Housing Act goes on to state that it is against the law to “deny persons with disabilities reasonable accommodations or the right to make reasonable modifications to a dwelling when the accommodations or modifications are needed for them to fully enjoy their homes.”
Working hand-in-hand with the fair housing act is the American with Disabilities Act. The ADA specifies that homeowners associations must “comply with anti-discrimination laws that apply to disabled persons, or run the risk of facing lawsuits and legal expenses.”
While most of the ADA is targeted to public properties such as office buildings, restaurants or hotels it could also cover common living areas that are open to the public. In the case of condominium complexes they could have a common area that is open only to residents or members which means the ADA regulations might not apply.
However, that doesn’t mean that a homeowners association can ignore the needs of its residents if they require certain levels of additional accessibility accommodations.
Handling a disability with practicality
If there is a longtime owner who has been a viable member of your community that has suddenly become incapacitated and needs a wheelchair to get around would you really deny them access or not make sufficient accommodations?
Taking on a major project like installing an elevator or building access ramps may not be budgeted for from a Reserve Study, but there should be minor considerations that can be adopted by an HOA to help provide support for residents. Maybe part of your reserve funds are allocated for enhancements to the community necessary to mitigate issues from potential and unexpected disabilities.
Obviously these are case-by-case basis, but a responsible community association needs to be receptive to the needs of each of its community members and be willing to make adjustments to support those needs.
This article is provided by The Management Trust.