Kimberly B. Cook, Esq., Associate Attorney
Title III of the ADA provides that “[n]o individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). Thus, the first question is whether the clubhouse is a “place of public accommodation.”
The clubhouse may seem like a public place because everyone gathers there for social activities, but whether it is a “place of public accommodation” depends on several factors, including whether non-member individuals are invited for the events that take place at the clubhouse or are able to lease the clubhouse. If any members of the public (i.e. – non-members or non-residents) are invited or allowed to rent out the clubhouse, it may be a place of public accommodation and the ADA would apply. For example, if the association rents the clubhouse to civic groups for their meetings or if there is an annual community yard sale held at the clubhouse and the public is invited, the clubhouse is open to the public and may subject to the requirements of the ADA. Conversely, if the clubhouse is only open to members and none of the public may use the clubhouse, the ADA does not apply and the association would not be required to bring the clubhouse into compliance with the ADA.
When the ADA applies to an association’s clubhouse, it must be accessible to disabled persons. For entrances, the number of accessible entrances must be equal to the number of emergency exits that are required by the local fire and building codes and the number of accessible entrances must be at least fifty percent (50%) of the total entrances to the building. Accessible entrances are those without stairs (including a curb from the street), that are stable and slip resistant, at least thirty-six inches wide and free of objects protruding into the travel path. If the clubhouse entrance does not meet the foregoing criteria, the association must remediate the entrance so that it is compliant with the ADA.
These steps may include installing a ramp in accordance with the requirements of the ADA, adding an alternative route to the entrance on level ground, adding or repairing railings, repairing uneven pavement or bumps, replacing gravel with concrete, moving landscaping or objects out of the walkway, widening the walkway and entrance, installing a curb cut out or adding a small ramp to the curb. There are many other alterations that can be done to make a building accessible.
Additionally, other portions of the clubhouse may be required to be remediated to comply with the ADA – parking and restrooms to name a couple. With the high costs involved in defending ADA claims, it is often more cost effective to get the assistance of an attorney to determine whether the ADA applies before a claim is filed against an association for a violation of the ADA. If the association is unable to perform the necessary remediation, the association could cease allowing it to be used by the public. However, it must be very clear to members and the public that the clubhouse is no longer open to the public. Sending notice to the members and/or posting notice at the entrance to the clubhouse would help to make it clear. The scope of this article is limited to only entrances, but subsequent posts will address other facets of the ADA and how it could affect community associations.
For more information, please feel free to contact our office at 727.329.8956 during normal business hours or contact us through this website.