There are a number of disability discrimination laws on the federal and state level. Not all of them apply to homeowners associations. Following is a list of disability laws:
1. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Federal laws that that generally do not apply to homeowner associations. Independent Housing Services of San Francisco v. Fillmore Center Associates 840 F.Supp. 1328. However, if an association were to open its facilities to the public, then ADA regulations would apply.
2. Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA), 42 U.S.C. §3601 et seq. Applies to HOAs and requires reasonable accommodations in rules and policies to allow the disabled to use and enjoy their dwellings. Reasonableness is determined by weighing the benefit of the accommodation against the burden on the association. The requesting person bears the cost associated with the disability accommodation. Claims under FFHA must be made within two years of incident of alleged discrimination. (Telesca v. The Village of Kings Creek Condominium Association, Inc., No. 09-13910, U.S. App. Ct., 11th Cir., Aug. 2, 2010.)
3. Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Government Code §§12900-12996. FEHA is the California equivalent of the FFHA. FEHA applies to homeowners associations and requires reasonable modification of an association's rules and policies to allow a disabled person equal opportunity to use and enjoy the premises. It is administered by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
4. Unruh Civil Rights Act (UCRA), California Civil Code §51. The UCRA applies to homeowners associations (O'Connor v. Village Green). However, associations are not required to bear the cost of accommodating disability modification requests.
5. Davis-Stirling Act, Civil Code §§4000-6150. California law that applies to homeowners associations. It allows owners to make alterations to their units and the common areas at their own expense to accommodate their disabilities.
Recommendation: Boards should immediately consult legal counsel whenever there is a request for reasonable accommodation or an allegation that the association is in violation of anti-discrimination laws.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.