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HOAs and reasonable accommodation under the ADA

Living in a Michigan condominium complex or master-planned community with a homeowner’s association has its perks. The HOA maintains peaceful, orderly neighborhoods and it enforces the community rules and handles the day-to-day administration tasks.

Some people are born with disabilities, while others must learn to live with them after a catastrophic event. According to HOAleader, associations must make reasonable accommodation for disabled homeowners. This is above and beyond ensuring the common areas comply with federal and local law and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Owners often want ramps to their front door or to the lobby where there are elevators. When homeowners follow the association’s process, the application is almost always approved.

Some communities have a no-pet policy. However, ESADoctors.com reports that the Fair Housing Act gives service and emotional support animals special rights. If a doctor writes a letter stating the need for a comfort pet, the association may need to approve the accommodation. Service animals receive specialized training, but ESA pets have a different purpose. They help people cope with mental disabilities.

Homeowners with comfort pets are exempt from additional pet rent and deposits as well as animal age and weight restrictions. A board may decide to fight the request if it feels it is being taken advantage of, potentially resulting in a lawsuit. The outcome depends on the circumstances of the particular situation.

Making accommodations for specific types of homeowner requests is only part of the process. Any renovations or updates to parking lots and other common areas must adhere to the ADA and Fair Housing Act requirements. Balancing ADA compliance with community bylaws can be challenging for HOAs and advice from a legal professional can help prevent missteps that lead to ADA violation claims.