As a co-op, your building must comply with a patchwork of federal and state anti-discrimination laws protecting people with disabilities. This includes the Americans with Disabilities Act and Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA), the latter of which requires cooperative housing communities to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled residents.
These accommodations often take the form of exceptions for the disabled resident, such as a no-pets building allowing a blind resident to keep a seeing-eye dog. The law also requires co-op boards to ensure that the entryways, common spaces and individual units are equally accessible to everyone regardless of disability status. For example, there should be wheelchair access, such as ramps to reach outside doors and elevators for multi-story buildings. Disabled residents could also request designated parking spaces closer to the entrance to make it easier to get to and from their cars.
The hidden complexities of accessibility accommodation
This might seem obvious, but something that co-ops don’t always realize is that the law might require them to pay for accessibility accommodations for temporary disabilities too, such as for a resident with a broken leg. They should also be careful asking someone requesting an accommodation for details about their condition, which is prohibited by the ADA.
Advice to help avoid a lawsuit
The rules surrounding disability accessibility and accommodations are complex. A mistake with a member’s request could lead to expensive litigation. Reliable legal advice from an informed attorney who is familiar with state and federal anti-housing discrimination laws can greatly reduce this risk. They can advise you on specific requests and help you develop policies that respect the law.