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Aging in Place: Considerations for Condominium Associations

by | Feb 29, 2024 | Firm News |


AARP maintains a Livability Index (), scoring neighborhoods and communities across the U.S. for their impact on seniors.  The index identifies availability of multi-family housing, the percentage of housing units that are not single-family, detached homes, as a positive factor contributing to affordability and accessibility.  It particularly notes that condominiums often meet the household needs of older adults in certain situations, such as those whose children have moved out or have a deceased spouse.  Therefore, condominium associations have an important role to play in improving community livability.

Alterations and Modifications

Because condominiums are not public accommodations, they are not subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act.  However, they are subject to the Fair Housing Act.  Furthermore, the Michigan Condominium Act, MCL 559.147a, gives co-owners the specific right to make improvements or modifications to their units and the route to their doors, for the purposes of facilitating access or movement for people with disabilities, or to alleviate potentially hazardous conditions.  The most common modifications are ramps and chair lifts, but we have also reviewed and approved plans for custom electrical and plumbing work.  It is in associations’ interest to accommodate requests whenever possible to facilitate use and enjoyment by a broad population.

Associations should apply especially careful consideration to requests for handicap or van-accessible parking spaces.  Some cities, villages, and townships have their own municipal requirements for these spaces.  The association will have to balance accommodation and location with the needs of other co-owners, particularly in condominiums with assigned parking spaces, carports, or parking garages.

Inclusive Design

Associations should also consider the accessibility of their general common elements, such as clubhouses or community centers.  Helpful features include zero-step entrances, wide doors and hallways, ground-floor restrooms, and lever-style door handles that automatically unlock when depressed from the inside.

Emergency Contacts

Associations and managing agents should request that co-owners complete and submit co-owner information sheets at closing, by including with the payoff letter.  They should request updates in each budget mailing and at each annual meeting.  They should be prepared to accept updates at any time by mail, fax, email, the website, and any social media accounts the Association maintains.  They should request names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses for not only local key holders, but also adult children, power of attorney holders, successor trustees, and individual property managers or real estate agents.

Emergency Access

Many older Michigan residents travel to Florida, Arizona, or other warmer climates over the winter months.  This poses a challenge to associations because it coincides with water leak season, caused by ice damming or frozen pipes.  An unobserved leak in a seasonally vacant unit can cause significant damage to the unit, adjacent units, and common elements.  Delay in accessing a vacant unit can result in continuing damage or mold.  Whenever possible, the Board or the management company should have keys or access codes to vacant units.  For any co-owners uncomfortable with giving the association direct access, the association should have the emergency contact information for a local key holder.

Residential Lock Boxes

Another option is a residential lock box program administered by the local fire department or police department.  This involves installing a lock box outside the individual units, assessable by emergency responders.  This provides faster access in the event of a medical or property damage emergency, and eliminates damage to the exterior of the unit and the need to re-secure it.  Associations should allow installation of the boxes, and provide information on the program.

Monitoring Technology

Absent or elderly co-owners are less able to monitor maintenance needs within their units.  One Association, faced with frequent mechanical breakdowns, chose to install water alarms under each water heater and air conditioning condensation line.  This allows early warning to neighboring units and the association before significant damage occurs.  Associations may also find value in remotely accessible thermometers.  This allows the association to detect a furnace outage before it can pose a risk to medically vulnerable individuals, or frozen pipes.

We Can Help

Do you have questions about protecting aging co-owners and their units?  We have years of experience with these matters and many other issues facing condominiums and homeowners associations.  Please reach out to us at (248) 349-6203 or email us using the form below.


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