Articles Posted in ADA Regulations

Disagreements over service animals have consistently ranked among the most prevalent types of disputes that arise between community associations and their residents. In South Florida alone we have witnessed numerous investigations concerning discrimination claims —many of which still serve as stark reminders of the severe implications of mishandling requests for service animal accommodations.

Most government investigations begin with a complaint from a resident indicating that their request for assistance animals had been denied or that they had refrained from requesting an assistance animal for fear of being evicted.

In light of the patterns we have seen throughout the years, associations should refrain from automatically denying requests for permission to keep service or emotional support animals without first requesting additional information from the resident. By law, associations are entitled to make inquiries in order to determine if the request is legitimate and whether a service or emotional support animal is a necessary accommodation in order for the resident to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their dwelling.

sdogAssociations are entitled to inquire about how the disability affects the resident’s major life activities (walking, breathing, working, seeing, hearing are examples of some defined major life activities), and how the animal assists the individual with any major life activity that is impaired by their disability when the disability or the need for the requested accommodation is not apparent.  Associations may also request that the resident provide this information from their doctor.

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In addition to several of our other community association attorneys, I have recently counseled some of our clients about the applicability of the new pool accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The new ADA pool accessibility requirements apply to state and local government services as well as places of public accommodations (e.g., hotels, fitness centers, etc.), and they call for the provision of accessible means of entry and exit from pools. The Department of Justice recently extended the compliance deadline for existing pools to January 31, 2013.

The new ADA pool accessibility requirements do not apply to most community associations, as the pools and amenities at typical condominiums and HOA communities are strictly for the use of the residents and their guests and are not open to the public.

pool lift.jpgHowever, those community associations that operate as a resort/hotel condo and are therefore open to the public will definitely be required to meet the new ADA pool accessibility requirements. In addition, community associations that allow the use or rental of their pool(s) for events and activities that are open to the public (e.g., swimming competitions, water aerobics, etc.) will also very likely be required to comply. For these communities, it is imperative that they consult with their attorney to determine if they must comply with the new ADA pool accessibility requirements.

Finally, if your community association is considering or already allowing the use of its pool for events or activities that are open to the public, I would recommend consulting with the association’s attorney to determine whether it should constitute any concerns over the applicability of ADA regulations.

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