Making Lives Easier Accommodating Residents with Special Needs

Regardless of region or market, a mélange of personalities, preferences and expectations comprise any homeowners association. Part of that diversity includes folks who may need special accommodations in order to fully enjoy and participate in the life of their building or community. To this end, boards and management companies must adhere to guidelines set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA).

Two Laws – Similar Aims

“The ADA is applicable to employment and public accommodations or commercial premises,” says attorney Steven Wagner, a principal with the Manhattan-based law firm of Porzio, Bromberg & Newman PC. “The relevant law, as it pertains to housing, would be the Federal Fair Housing Act. The Act applies to rental buildings, cooperatives, condominiums and homeowner associations.”

The FHA protects individuals against discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status and disability. Additionally, the law prohibits discrimination based on a handicap, which is broadly defined to include most physical or mental issues that substantially impair a major life function. To this end, the Act requires associations “to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford ... person(s) [with disabilities] equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”

Understanding Disability

While there are some loose interpretations of what constitutes a disability, the ADA does provide a distinction between physical, mental and emotional impairments, explains Ira Meister, RAM, CREA, founder and president of the Matthew Adam Properties Inc. in Manhattan.

Physical conditions can include orthopedic, visual, speech and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, autism, cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and alcoholism, among others. With regard to mental conditions, depression, anxiety, stress related issues, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, learning disabilities, autism, and ADHD are among conditions covered.

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