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Does the ADA apply to HOAs?

The Americans with Disabilities Act is the historic law pass to protect those with disabilities and ensure that they have equal access to public accommodations, employment, education and transportation.

Does the ADA apply to homeowners’ associations, including common amenities and areas? The answer is maybe. The key is whether there is a public accommodation.

Public accommodation

Public accommodations are facilities or services offered to the general public, like libraries, parks, buildings, etc. The ADA applies to these spaces. However, it does not generally apply to places that are not public accommodations, like privately-owned residents or privately-owned amenities. This includes those of HOAs that are for the exclusive use of HOA members.

Fair Housing Act

However, even if the ADA does not apply to the HOA’s amenities, the federal Fair Housing Act and any state fair housing laws still apply. These prohibit discrimination based on disability and other protected characteristics in housing, so a reasonable accommodation in HOA policies and procedures may still be applicable to an HOA.

How could the ADA apply?

An HOA could inadvertently subject itself to the ADA once it opens up any service or amenity to the public. A rental, leasing or sales office that is open to the general public is a public accommodation. This is common when a community is still being built and sales of new homes are ongoing.

If the HOA sells access to HOA amenities, those amenities are now public accommodations. If the HOA allows the use of their spaces and buildings by schools, churches, clubs, etc. that have members that are not part of the HOA, then those buildings are now public accommodations as well. Mixed-use communities (those with commercial or retail spaces) open to the public are also subject to the ADA.

Why does it matter?

It matters because those public accommodations must meet the ADA accessibility requirements, providing ramps, handrails, accessible parking spaces, etc. It also means that the HOA must provide reasonable accommodations and modifications, like allowing service animals. However, the FHA would likely apply to the HOA if its members requested such a reasonable accommodation or modification.