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Rights of disabled unit owners to change common areas

Although many members of Michigan condominium boards are not aware, disabled co-owners have the right to modify common areas. They do not have to abide by any rules in the association documents that would prevent this type of modification.

The changes have to be for the sake of accessibility, and there are some obligations that come along with them. This article will discuss the rights to modify and the obligations that unit owners would assume by exercising said rights.

The right to modify

If a change is necessary to access a unit, then a unit owner may make that change at personal expense. There are some qualifications to this right:

  • No change can threaten the structural integrity of the building
  • The changes must comply with all applicable building codes and laws
  • The unit owner has to pay for any damage associated with installing the modification
  • The installer must conform as much as reasonably possible to rules about aesthetics and safety

Owners may make these modifications in their units, in common areas and on the exterior of the building. If they are on the exterior, they should not prevent passage into or out of the building.

Obligations of modifiers

Aside from the aforementioned assumption of the costs of improvements and repairs, the unit owner would have some other obligations. For example, they have a responsibility to remove any modifications upon leaving the unit permanently or leasing it to someone who does not need the same accessibility considerations.

This right does not give co-owners freedom to bypass condominium boards and install modifications unilaterally. However, it does obligate the association to promptly approve any reasonable proposal that conforms with the law — and accompany any rejection with a list of changes that would be necessary for the proposal to conform.