By definition, housing co-ops are more exclusive than other types of housing, such as condominiums and apartments. Thus, the board of a co-op can be more selective in what they choose to require of their shareholder-residents, and which accommodations they choose to offer to the residents. But there are a few types of accommodations that federal law prohibits even a private housing co-op from refusing to their residents. If you are on the board of a co-op, it’s good to know what the law requires you to provide, so that you can avoid a lawsuit.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
Among other things, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) establishes the rules for when a housing organization must provide certain accommodations to their residents. Reasonable accommodations may include wheelchair ramps, the presence of service animals and things of that nature which can help a person with a disability to live a comfortable life.
The ADA is a federal statute, so it applies to public organizations in every state in the nation. However, it only applies to private housing cooperatives under specific circumstances. If your cooperative is at least partially open to the public, then the ADA probably applies to you. If it is completely closed and exclusive to residents, then it may be exempt from the ADA’s requirements.
The Fair Housing Act
Unlike the Americans with Disabilities Act, your cooperative will have to comply with the Fair Housing Act even if it is completely private and closed to the public. This act prohibits you from discriminating against applicants for housing based on certain protected characteristics.
The protected characteristics covered by the Act include race, sex, familial status, religion and the presence of a disability. You must also allow your residents to make reasonable modifications to your premises to accommodate their disability (such as by installing grab bars in the bathroom).
You formed your cooperative with a specific vision in mind. It can be challenging to walk the line between staying faithful to that vision and making accommodations that the law requires. But doing so is the best way to reduce the likelihood that you will have to defend against a potentially costly discrimination lawsuit.