ADA coverage guide for home and business owners

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is not as far reaching as many people thought. For example, the ADA does not govern access to private properties, such as single-family homes constructed or operated without federal, state, or local funds.

Nevertheless, the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) still requires reasonable accommodations. It’s the resident’s responsibility to make any necessary modifications to a property at their own expense, even if the property is rented.

Generally speaking, homes in the U.S. that have been built after 1990 should be designed and constructed with regard to basic accessibility requirements. This is a result of the 1990 Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines, which is now part of building codes used by architects and building contractors.

However, the applicable building codes are often outdated due to the time it takes for jurisdictions to adopt the newer versions of the given codes. As a result, many private properties can be difficult to access for those using wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

What isn’t Covered Under the ADA?

According to, the United States Access Board’s website, private residences are not covered under the ADA:

  • In the private sector, the ADA’s coverage of housing is limited to places of public accommodation, such as social service establishments and housing provided on or behalf [of] a place of education. The ADA does not apply to individually owned or leased housing in the private sector not used as a public accommodation, including single family homes, condominiums, or apartments. (Many types of multi-family housing in the private and public sectors are subject to the design requirements of the Fair Housing Act.) Places of public accommodation located in residential buildings, such as rental and sales offices, commercial spaces, and hotel accommodations, are covered by the ADA Standards.

What is Covered Under the ADA?

According to the same source, businesses open to the public or organizations affecting commerce are covered under the ADA:

  • In the private sector, the ADA Standards apply to places of public accommodation and commercial facilities. Places of public accommodation are facilities that affect commerce and that fall within twelve categories listed in the statute, including stores and shops, restaurants and bars, sales or rental establishments, service establishments, theaters, places of lodging, recreation facilities, assembly areas, private museums, places of education, and others. Nearly all types of private businesses that serve the public are included in the twelve categories, regardless of size. Commercial facilities include office buildings, factories, warehouses, manufacturing plants, and other facilities whose operations affect commerce.

Other Coverages and Exemptions

The ADA also enforces accessibility standards in state and local government facilities, transportation facilities, such as bus and train stations; and government owned or operated housing, such as homeless shelters or halfway houses. Private clubs and religious organizations are often exempt from ADA regulation, although these places may still be subject to state or local accessibility codes depending on their membership provisions.

More Information

  • Further information including accessible home and building construction details can be found in the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines.
  • For those interested in exploring accessibility modification options, offers educational articles about wheelchair lifts and ramps as well as manufacturer comparison sheets and best contact information.
  • Information about the FHAA can be found at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website.

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