How To Ensure Your HOA Is ADA Compliant

Signed into law in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that fair access be granted to all individuals with disabilities to ensure that they can access all public services, facilities, and amenities. As part of the ADA, reasonable accommodations must be made to allow those with disabilities to access various areas of public life.

Ensuring ADA compliance for your Tacoma, WA, HOA is essential to providing equal access and opportunity for those living within your community. No one should ever be excluded because of a disability, and your HOA is responsible for making sure that certain areas of your community association are compliant and welcoming for everybody. Although professional community management services can better assist you in handling all aspects of ADA compliance, here are some of the primary steps to making sure your HOA is ADA compliant.

How the ADA Applies to Common Areas

Since homeowners associations are considered private entities, the ADA does not apply to all of its facilities and common areas. Specifically, the areas which require membership to access do not have to be ADA-compliant if no resident requires accommodation on these grounds.

However, most areas that are used by the public in some capacity must be made ADA compliant or are otherwise subject to ADA guidelines. This can include the main office, public sidewalks, any common areas that host public events, or any facilities leased out for public use. For example, if your HOA clubhouse can be leased out by the public for birthday parties, the clubhouse would fall under ADA guidelines, even if it’s technically a facility intended for residents. The same would apply to the swimming pool if it was used for a public school swim meet. When opening your HOA’s facilities to the public, it’s important to consider what accommodations and changes will need to be made in order to comply with ADA guidelines.

How the ADA Applies to Individual Homes

The ADA doesn’t require that individual residences be made fully accessible, but there are certain accommodations that must be made if requested by a homeowner. Although HOAs often have rules surrounding what renovations a resident can make to their home, renovations required for a disabled person’s quality of life would be exempt from these bylaws.

For example, ramps must be permitted to be installed for wheelchair access. Your homeowner may also be permitted to widen doorways or install chairlifts or grab bars to accommodate their needs. Pet-free HOAs will also be required to allow service dogs depending on your local laws. If you’re ever in doubt about what community guidelines must be legally circumvented to accommodate a resident with disabilities, your HOA management firm can help advise you.

HOAs and the Fair Housing Act

When considering your community’s ADA compliance, it’s important to keep in mind that the Fair Housing Act (FHA) also applies in this area. The FHA prohibits housing discrimination against individuals based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and familial status. More specifically, the law requires that disabled occupants must be provided “reasonable accommodation.”

Under the law, an HOA must make exceptions and allowances to the rules for disabled residents or make policy changes necessary to accommodate them and their needs. The law doesn’t require that common areas or individual homes be made fully ADA-compliant, but any reasonable requests from disabled residents must be taken into consideration.

Making sure that your community association is ADA compliant is a crucial step. It’s not only required from a legal perspective, but it also helps create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all residents. If you need further assistance to ensure that your HOA is compliant with ADA regulations and all applicable laws, a professional HOA management firm can help. 

At The Management Trust, our expert team can help guide you in legal matters as well as assist with day-to-day operations that free up your HOA board members to focus on the bigger picture. From recommending trusted local vendors to providing counsel based on local laws, The Management Trust’s Tacoma, WA, office allows us to remain the No. 1 resource for professional community management in Washington. If you’d like to find out more about HOA management companies such as The Management Trust and exactly how we can benefit your Tacoma, WA, community association, give us a call today at 253-472-0825 or fill out our online contact form today.