Re: Americans with Disabilities Act - Title III
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 25 Jul 2012 07:52:12 -0700 (PDT)
One of the complexities in determining what laws apply to cohousing is the 
legal and financial structure and clarifying what vocabulary is relevant to 
what you are asking.

Private vs public

Commercial vs residential

Public vs residential

Private vs residential

Non-commerical vs commercial

Public vs commercial

So asking about ADA regulations is too simple. You have to look at all the 
other regulations that cover anything related to a legal entity.

We ran into this recently in relation to our pet policy. Some of our members 
believed that since they were owners, this was their private property and the 
law covering what people can allow in their yards applied.

The city doesn't see it that way. The property is not owned by a single 
homeowner and thus the single homeowner doesn't have a private yard. If the 
Association allows a single homeowner to violate the law, the whole Association 
is responsible. The yard belong to all of us.

So the opposition between public and private is imprecise at best. Is a condo 
public or private? It can be residential and not commercial because it doesn't 
rent property, but it isn't private in the sense that an individual home is 
private. In some building code issues, it becomes public because we have to 
have things like exit signs in our Common House and have occupancy limitations 
on the public rooms. But in our case the kitchen is not commercial. So we have 
a public but not commercial space.

I think the requirement for becoming a lawyer is that your brain doesn't go 
numb when you face these distinctions and overlaps.

Every jurisdiction has different words for all these distinctions. That's one 
reason people say talk to a lawyer or an ADA expert who has studied these 
nuances. "Who has studied these nuances" is key. Not all lawyers have.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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