Variance process

Find out more information about variance processes

Varience process


The following is a step-by-step guide to the process of requesting a variance.

Applications for variance are available in the Variance Process section on this page, or at the AAB office. You may call or write to request an application form.

Application Requirements:

You must complete the application in full (incomplete applications will not be accepted) and submit all necessary supporting documentation. When completing the application for variance, you should be aware of the following:

The most recent AAB Regulations were published on January 27, 2006, effective July 27, 2006. Previous regulations were issued on February 1, 2002 (effective August 1, 2002); September 1, 1996; April 1, 1982; March 3, 1977; and June 10, 1975 with amendments in January of 1985; July 10, 1987; September of 1990; January of 1992; and March 6, 1998.

You must request a variance for every area of your facility which does not comply with, or is not expected to comply with, the Board's regulations. Any violation of the Board's regulations, for which a variance is not granted, may be subject to fines of up to $1,000 per day, per violation.

You must also submit written estimates of the costs of compliance with the variance(s) requested. If there is not enough space on the application to answer all questions completely, you may attach additional sheets as necessary.

The Board requires architectural drawings (in 11" x 17" format) and photographs of the facility as part of the application for variance.

Remember, the burden of proof is on the applicant to prove his/her case. Statutorily, the Board can only grant variances if compliance with the regulations is proven to be technologically infeasible or the cost of compliance is excessive without any substantial benefit to persons with disabilities.



All applicants filing for variances from 521 CMR will be required to deliver the application and all supplemental information on both paper and compact disc to not only the AAB Office, but also to the Local Building Inspector (or State Inspector if applicable), the Local Commission on Disability (if applicable; check city/town website), and the Local Independent Living Center* (check Commonwealth of Massachusetts Statewide Independent Living Council) that represent the city/town where the property in question is located. A list of the addresses for these entities is also available by calling the AAB Office. 

 The variance application includes a "Service Notice" which requires that signatures be provided, and the form notarized, verifying that the variance application has been received by the required parties. An application will not be accepted by this office without completed forms and documentation.

* - There are two Independent Living Centers that should be served for any projects in Boston.


Once the Board receives the completed application, along with a $50.00 check made payable to " The Commonwealth of Massachusetts", it is entered in the Variance Tracking System. If the application is not complete, i.e. the filing fee, CD, or "Service Notice" is missing, the case will not be accepted, resulting in a delay in processing.

The application is held for a minimum of two weeks to allow input from the Local/State Building Inspector, the Local Commission on Disability, and the Local Independent Living Center.

The Board meets every other Monday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The cases that have been received will be discussed as incoming cases. The petitioners are not allowed to discuss their cases before the Board unless a hearing is scheduled. The Board discusses the incoming cases before or between hearings. All Board meetings are open to the public.

Preliminary decisions are made based upon the information submitted. The Board will either: 1.) Grant the variance as requested with specific conditions; 2.) Deny the variance; or 3.) Schedule a hearing for the petitioner to present his/her case.

You may call the office on the Tuesday following a meeting to find out whether or not the Board heard your application and the decision of the Board. Written documentation sent by the Board usually takes about two weeks from the date of the decision.

If the Board grants or denies the variance without a hearing and you, or an aggrieved party, is not satisfied with that decision, you have the right to request an adjudicatory hearing before the Board. An "Adjudicatory Hearing Request Form" will be attached to the decision and is also available on the AAB Website. This form must be filed within thirty (30) days receipt of the decision of the Board.

If you are scheduled for a hearing on your application, you will receive a "Notice of Hearing" setting forth the day and time that your hearing will be held. It is important to note that when the Board schedules a hearing for you to appear, the Board has reserved a specific period of time for you. If the day and time are not convenient, please notify the Office as soon as possible, as the Board schedules hearings approximately 6 weeks in advance.


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