QUESTION: For years, I have been asking my association to install handicapped access to our pool and walkways. They said it would be ugly and refused. Should the board make an effort to have these things installed once asked?
ANSWER: With some exceptions, the federal law known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not apply to homeowner associations. Other laws, however, do apply.
Under the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1988, boards cannot prevent residents from using their own pool lifts to get into and out of association pools. In addition, if you are handicapped, the board must reasonably accommodate your request for handicap access to common areas. That means allowing you to install appropriate handicapped walkways, rails and the like. The downside is that the installation is at your expense. (Civ. Code §4760.)
RECOMMENDATION: Because many residents in associations are aging in place, I routinely advise boards to set aside funds in their reserves to make facilities friendly for the disabled. Even though associations are not subject to the ADA, members and their guests benefit when facilities are ADA compliant. The improvements do not need to be made all at once. They can be phased in over time as monies become available.
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