Association Tows Vehicle with ADA Placard

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J.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My 39-unit building has 2 ADA spaces – one of which is constantly utilized by one resident – who does have an ADA placard – as a 3rd space for their unit. We are deeded 2 spaces each. HOA rules clearly govern the ADA spaces (Guest pass *and* ADA placard needed, 24-hour max), in order to address residents using them improperly. Multiple written warnings, and then a towing took place. Was the HOA Board within its rights to tow a placard-displaying vehicle from an ADA space?

Mister Condo replies:

J.H, towing is an extreme measure for any association. It is usually reserved for the worst offenders and those putting the safety of association residents at risk. For instance, a vehicle parked in a fire lane or obstructing the entrance or exit to the association or blocking access to another unit owner’s unit. From what you have told me, none of those things happened here. A unit owner with ADA placard violated the association’s rules on parking on more than one occasion and the association decided that enough was enough and towed the car. Whether or not the association was within its right to do so is very likely a matter for the courts to decide if this unit owner brings suit against the association. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column. The association should have spoken with their attorney before towing this vehicle to make sure they had the power to do so. My guess is that as long as the by-laws grant them that power and they followed all of the required protocol first (notice of violation, request to appear before the Board to discuss violation, fine for violation, and so on) then they may have also had the right to tow the vehicle. However, since there was no emergency situation in play here, towing was an extreme measure and may not have been the best way to get this unit owner to comply with the association’s rules on parking and use of the ADA parking spaces. The written warnings were a good first step. I’m not sure that towing should have been the next step. Ideally, unit owners will comply with association rules. When they don’t, it may be time to involve the association attorney to take the proper next steps of enforcement. At the very least, the association has set itself up to have a legal battle with this unit owner. At the very worst, they may be found to have taken unfounded action against the unit owner, who happens to have a handicap sever enough to merit an ADA placard. You had best hope the unit owner doesn’t claim discrimination against the association in addition to any complaints about having their car towed improperly. Good luck!

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