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Category: Real Estate Law
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Experience:  20 years extensive experience in real estate law, foreclosure, finance, and landlord tenant law.
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My wife has a tendency to fall and recently broke her hip.

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My wife has a tendency to fall and recently broke her hip. Doctor says protected ramp access to car is medical necessity. With no other solution for this protected ramp access, can a homeowner association keep me from building a one-car garage with an internal, protected ramp for her use? I live in northern Ohio next to Lake Erie, lots of snow and ice.
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Sorry for your situation.

Various laws have been established to protect the rights of disabled individuals, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Federal Fair Housing Act ("FFHA"). These laws govern both public and private facilities, and set forth the degree to which an entity, such as a homeowners association ("HOA"), is responsible for making modifications or improvements to accommodate individuals with disabilities.

Under the ADA, all public and government facilities are required to comply with specific use and construction requirements to accommodate disabled individuals. It is important to note that the ADA applies only to "public accommodations." Therefore, a HOA will not be subject to the ADA unless the HOA is operating what can be considered a "public accommodation." A "public accommodation" is any facility which a HOA is holding out for use by members of the general public--not solely for use by the HOA's members and their guests. Though these situations are rare, HOAs have been subjected to ADA requirements when: (1) a HOA allows members of the public to buy memberships or passes to the HOA's pool, (2) where a HOA allows schools, church groups or clubs to use HOA facilities on a regular basis, and (3) where a HOA maintains a rental office on the property that receives regular visits from the general public. Any HOA considering or currently allowing such activity should carefully inspect their facilities to ensure compliance with the ADA or, in the alternative, cease all such activities immediately. The failure to do so may lead to claims of discrimination against the HOA and otherwise subject the HOA to liability.

The Federal Fair Housing Act ("FFHA") is similar to the ADA; however, the FFHA applies directly to housing facilities, including HOAs. Under the FFHA, a HOA may not legally refuse to make reasonable accommodations in its rules or policies when such accommodations may be necessary for a disabled owner to fully enjoy and use her unit. An example would include when a disabled owner requires the assistance of a service animal; a HOA would be obligated to grant a waiver from its "no pets" rule. The HOA 's refusal to make such an accommodation (one that is reasonable and necessary to afford a disabled owner the full enjoyment and use of her unit) is deemed to be discrimination under the FFHA. The FFHA also requires HOAs to permit a disabled owner to make, at such owner's expense, reasonable modifications to the owner's unit and HOA common areas.

So, given your - you can make reasonable modifications to your unit to accomodate her pursuant to the FFHA. However, that modification would not include the right to construct a one car garage.

Now it would include your able to construct and attach an "overhang" or small roof - but not to construct an entire one car garage.

I am sorry that I don’t have better news, but please understand that I do have an ethical and professional obligation to provide customers with legally correct answers, even when an answer is not favorable to the customer.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for the information. While I do not like the answer - I would prefer to construct a fully enclosed access to a garage, I understand the answer. I now better understand my situation. Thank you very much for a prompt resonse. A positive rating will be left. Again, thank you.

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