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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 USC §§ 3601-3631, protects families and persons with defined disabilities, similar to protections based on race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It addresses discrimination in the areas of employment (Title I), public services (Title II), public accommodations and commercial facilities (Title III).

Open to General Public. The ADA's public accommodations provision (Title III) does not apply to homeowner associations unless its facilities are open to the public. Following are examples:

The [ADA] applies to "public accommodations." This may include facilities that are part of a common interest development, such as a sales or rental office receiving public traffic, or commercial facilities that are part of a residential project. A meeting room leased to the public for a fee is subject to the act, but not a room used only by the association members. If a community association or condominium owns, operates, or leases a swimming pool, tennis court, or other recreational facility that is open to members of the general public, then, with respect to the operation of the recreational facility, the community association or condominium would be a place of public accommodation governed by Title III of the ADA. A recreational facility that is open to members of the public (rather than being reserved exclusively for the use of association members and their families and guests) is probably a place of public accommodation. Other places of public accommodation that are sometimes owned, operated, or leased by associations include: Day care center; Senior citizen centers; Refreshment stands; and Meeting rooms that are occasionally rented to business or civic groups. [Carolyn v. Orange Park Community Assn. (2009) 177 Cal.App.4th 1090, 1104 (internal cites deleted)]

Accessible to the Public. Common area facilities, such as equestrian trails, do not qualify as public accommodations simply because they are accessible to the public. Private facilities do not become public simply because the general public is not actively excluded from them. Even so, associations should post signs and create barriers to the public wherever appropriate.

Private Club. Woodland Golf Club is a private club. Lobel was disabled and could not walk without crutches. He played golf with the aid of a special cart that lifts and swivels him toward the ball. Lobel is not a member of the Woodland Golf Club but is a frequent guest. The Club banned his cart from the greens because it caused expensive damage. Lobel sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The court ruled against Lobel because ADA requirements do not apply to private clubs. (Lobel v. Woodland Golf Club of Auburndale)

Voluntary Compliance. Whenever possible, associations should voluntarily bring their facilities into compliance. This includes the association's fitness center, swimming pool, clubhouse, elevators, etc. It benefits our aging population of owners and, in the long run, is less expensive than litigating over such issues.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

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