Do HOAs Have to Be ADA Compliant?

May 24, 2024 | Uncategorized

Signed into law in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides equal opportunities and protects the rights of individuals with disabilities. This law governs both private and public facilities, similar to the Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA). And HOA management needs to be aware of both.

There are some important distinctions as the ADA and FFHA apply to different settings and situations. While the ADA governs accessibility in public accommodations and commercial facilities, the FFHA specifically addresses housing-related discrimination and requires HOAs to provide reasonable accommodations in homes and common areas.

The ADA also applies to community association property that is open to the public, even if only for the occasional or limited event. If an HOA is purely residential and association property is not open to the public, the association is generally not subject to the ADA, though it is still governed by the Fair Housing Act.

In addition to federal ADA requirements, California homeowners associations must comply with the state’s specific regulations under the California Building Code and Title 24.

How Does the ADA Apply to HOAs?

In general, the ADA applies to amenities and other parts of the community that are not used solely by residents. Under this law, all public and government facilities are required to comply with specific use and accommodations.

An HOA is not subject to the ADA unless the association is operating what is considered a public accommodation, which is any facility the HOA is holding out for use by members of the general public.

Below are some examples requiring ADA compliance by HOAs and HOA management companies:


  • The HOA maintains a rental office on property that receives regular visits from any member of the general public
  • Churches, schools, or clubs use the association’s facilities on a regular basis
  • Tennis meets open to public spectators
  • Trails, playground areas, golf courses, etc.
  • The association leases a facility to the public in exchange for money, such as allowing members of the public to purchase a membership or pass to use the HOA pool
  • Swim meets are held at the HOA’s pool
  • The association is part of a timeshare
  • Charity events


Since the pandemic, the ADA and related state laws have seen some changes and evolutions in their interpretations. This occurred particularly in the areas of digital accessibility and COVID-19 considerations.

For instance:

  • There is increased emphasis on ensuring websites, mobile apps, and other digital platforms used by HOAs are fully accessible to individuals with disabilities.
  • The pandemic also prompted updates to ADA guidelines, addressing issues like reasonable accommodations for high-risk individuals and accessibility measures for virtual meetings or events.

To uphold accessibility standards, many homeowners associations have opted to preserve the temporary changes brought on by the pandemic. These include modifications like rearranging furniture for social distancing, implementing enhanced cleaning protocols, and installing physical barriers that don’t impede access.

While maintaining these changes can benefit many different individuals with disabilities, the long-term effects of COVID are exacerbating this need. As Jill King, a disability rights advocate, told NPR, “Our [disability] community is growing exponentially from long COVID. More people are needing [accommodations], as well as asking for them.”

Next Steps: Making Sure Your HOA Is in Compliance

As mentioned, common space within the community used for public events, or any event hosted by the HOA that is open to members of the public, must be ADA accessible. This may also apply to parking lots if spaces are used for guest parking. Keep in mind that part-time public use can be enough for the ADA to apply.

Any HOA allowing activities should ensure ADA compliance by carefully inspecting the property to check that barriers such as curbs, safety hazards, stairs/steps, etc., are fixed or removed.

Because an the association can be deemed out of compliance with the ADA through rules, policies, or possible architectural barriers, the HOA must be aware of any facilities that may be considered public accommodations as defined by law.

Given the rise in demand for digital accessibility, HOAs also need to make sure that their websites, mobile apps, and online portals comply with accessibility standards. This can include providing alt text for images, closed captioning for videos, and compatibility with screen readers to give individuals with disabilities full access to navigate these digital resources.

Failure to comply can have severe consequences, leaving an HOA vulnerable to lawsuits, fines, and enforcement actions from regulatory agencies. Recent ADA updates have led to increased penalties for non-compliance, as well as changes to the processes for resolving disputes. Mediation or alternative dispute resolution may be required before resorting to litigation.

To maintain compliance, it’s important to implement and regularly conduct a comprehensive accessibility audit:

  • Consult with accessibility experts or organizations to gain insights and get recommendations for making necessary modifications.
  • Develop a detailed action plan to address identified issues, prioritizing critical areas and setting realistic timelines for improvements.
  • Evaluate the accessibility of digital resources, including websites, mobile apps, and online portals, to confirm compliance with web accessibility standards.
  • Identify ways to upgrade with new technologies that can aid in ADA compliance, including automatic door openers, voice-activated systems, and audible and visual emergency alert systems.
  • Request community feedback from residents with disabilities to verify that existing and planned modifications are user-focused and effective.
  • Uphold an ongoing monitoring and review process to assure continued compliance with accessibility regulations and evolving best practices.

Fortunately, HOAs needing to make significant changes may be eligible for financial assistance, grants, or tax incentives to help offset the costs of improvements. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), state/local disability rights agencies, and other organizations can provide guidance and information on available resources.

If you’re looking for an experienced HOA management company to help ensure ADA compliance, APS Management can help. Browse our services or contact us to request a proposal today.

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