The condominium is probably required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Failure to comply would expose the condominium association with liability. If the request by the resident is to bring the condominium into compliance with the law, it can probably be done without a vote fo the membership. Your board should consult with your lawyer about this situation.
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You are correct. If the sidewalk cannot easily accommodate the handicapped person's walker or wheelchair, it should be brought into compliance to avoid a lawsuit. Check with local zoning for the proper width to make the sidewalk ADA-compliant and then have it done ASAP.
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My colleagues are correct. If the sidewalk isn't ADA compliant, then your association may be facing problems larger than expanding the sidewalk.
DISCLAIMER: Brandy A. Peeples is licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. This answer is being provided for informational purposes only and the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice relating to your specific situation, I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney in your area. NO COMMUNICATIONS WITH ME ARE TO BE CONSTRUED AS ARISING FROM AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WILL BE ESTABLISHED WITH ME UNLESS I HAVE EXPRESSLY AGREED TO UNDERTAKE YOUR REPRESENTATION, WHICH INCLUDES THE EXECUTION OF A WRITTEN AGREEMENT OF RETAINER.
The Fair Housing Act governs condominium associations and HOAs regarding disabled owners. The request to modify the sidewalk is being made as a "reasonable accommodation" and as such requires the condo association to comply. No ownership vote is needed for this and it would not be considered a material change. A material change would be something that changes the character of the community or the scheme of the building plan, such as changing a Tuscany style community to a cottage style, or adding or removing amenities.
This communication is not intended to create an attorney/client relationship. It is always recommended you consult an attorney in person to discuss your case. The Law Offices of Stage & Associates practices state-wide and represents homeowners and community associations. Please visit our website at www.stagelaw.com.