Architectural Accommodations for Disabled Residents

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) contains various requirements pertaining to the accessibility, construction and operation of commercial facilities and places of “public accommodation.” Associations are private communities and are generally not subject to ADA requirements. (See Indep. Housing Servs. Of San Francisco v. Fillmore Center Assocs. (N.D. Cal 1993) 840 F.Supp. 1328, 1344 fn. 14: (“…the legislative history of the ADA clarifies that ‘other place of lodging’ does not include residential facilities.”).)  However, the ADA may apply to certain areas of an association that are open to the public, including areas such as a “sales or rental office receiving public traffic, or commercial facilities that are part of a residential project.” (Carolyn v. Orange Park Community Assn. (2009) 177 Cal.App.4th 1090, 1103; See also Coronado v. Cobblestone Village Community Rentals (2009) 163 Cal.App.4th 831; See also “Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”)

Modifications to Units & Common Area
Notwithstanding the foregoing, Civil Code Section 4760 allows for a member within an association to “[m]odify the member’s [unit], at the member’s expense, to facilitate access for persons who are blind, visually handicapped, deaf, or physically disabled, or to alter conditions which could be hazardous to these persons.” (Civ. Code § 4760(a)(2).) Such modifications may include “modifications of the route from the public way to the door of the [unit] [(i.e., to the common area)] if the [unit] is on the ground floor or already accessible by an existing ramp or elevator.” (Civ. Code § 4760(a)(2).)

The member’s right to perform such modifications to the member’s unit or to the common area route to the door of the unit are subject to the following conditions:

  • The modifications must comply with applicable building code requirements;
  • The modifications must be consistent with the association’s governing documents with respect to safety or aesthetics;
  • Modifications to the exterior of the unit must not prevent reasonable passage by other residents, and must be removed by the member when the unit is no longer occupied by the disabled persons requiring the modifications; and
  • The member must submit plans and specifications to the association for review prior to constructing the modifications, in order for the association to determine whether the modifications will be consistent with the requirements under Civil Code Section 4760(a).  The association may not deny approval of the proposed modifications “without good cause.” (Civ. Code § 4760(a)(2)(A)-(D).)

Related Topics

Related Statutes

Related Case Law

  • Coronado v. Cobblestone Village Community Rentals
    (2009) 163 Cal.App.4th 831

    [Discrimination; ADA Compliance] Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related federal regulations implementing the ADA do not apply to portions of private residential facilities that are not open to the general public.

  • Carolyn v. Orange Park Community Association
    (2009) 177 Cal.App.4th 1090

    [Discrimination; ADA Compliance] HOA’s private common area facilities not held to be places of “public accommodation” subject to Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requirements

Related Links

Disabled Residents and the Law
“The Legal Obligations of an Association in Accommodating Disabled Residents”
Educational article published by HOA attorneys of Tinnelly Law Group

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended
Current text of the ADA