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30 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act and fair housing

This year we recognize the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Lawmakers passed the ADA in 1990. The law helps disabled Americans by improving access to public spaces, employment, education and buildings. What has this meant for housing cooperatives? The ADA does not affect individual units but may apply to public spaces such as parking areas and entryways. Together with the Fair Housing Act (FHA), these laws have helped make housing more accessible for many people.

The ADA and the FHA

The FHA has been around even longer than the ADA. The FHA prohibits discrimination against applicants based on their membership in a protected class, such as race, religion or disability. Whereas the ADA requires the buildings to allow access, the FHA requires that policies allow access. An association may need to grant a request for a reasonable accommodation under the FHA. In many cases, an association need not act until a resident or guest makes a request.

Accommodating service animals

For many years, blind people have used guide dogs to help them navigate. In recent years, however, more people have started using service animals for help with a range of disabilities. The laws now protect emotional support animals, as well, for people with an emotional or mental disability.

The FHA considers service animals a reasonable accommodation, no matter what type of pet policy an association may have. The association may require a doctor’s note explaining the need for the service animal. It may not charge the resident a separate pet deposit or rental fee, however.

If you have questions about complying with the ADA, the FHA or both, contact your association’s attorney. Conflicts over these issues can be costly but are also often preventable.