We hope that all property managers are aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA Standards for Accessible Design has been around since 2010. This federal law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by ensuring equal access and services to those individuals. These laws mandate that businesses remove architectural barriers so that they are completely accessible to people with disabilities.
When it comes right down to it, who’s responsible to make and keep your facility accessible? For example, if a new tenant requires ADA accessible public bathrooms as part of their build-out, should that improvement be on your dime or theirs? What about handicapped parking spaces? Or accessible doorways and ramps?
Under the ADA rules, both a tenant and owner are subject to compliance. This includes not only installation of accessible elements but also their maintenance. Allocation of responsibility should be negotiated in each commercial lease. The clearest way to do this is with a “compliance with laws” clause. This clause will list the responsibilities of each party as it pertains to all laws, including the ADA. Some leases favor the tenant, some favor the landlord and some are equally weighted. One way to divide up responsibility is to assign the exterior structure and common areas to the landlord and the interior structure and systems to the tenant. However the responsibilities are assigned, it’s important to have this clause in the lease so that compliance responsibility is clear. Nevertheless, if a tenant is responsible to maintain and repair an element but does not do so, the property could still be held responsible for noncompliance.
Noncompliance with ADA laws can carry huge consequences. If evidence of inaccessibility is reported to the Department of Justice, it will demand correction and could start litigation. The cost of noncompliance is not something you want to take on. It’s in your best interest as a property manager to stay on top of your facility when it comes to ADA regulations. You can find more information on the rules and who is responsible at this link.
Experts recommend that a facility should evaluate a property for accessibility compliance and create a correction plan every five years. There are many elements that can easily fall out of compliance if you are not on top of them. Here are just some of the things that should be evaluated:
Parking: Every commercial facility must provide accessible parking spaces for handicap permitted cars and vans. How many the property need depends on the total number of parking spots available. One of every six spaces in your parking lot must be van accessible. An accessible parking space must have an access aisle, so that a person using a wheelchair or other mobility device can get in and out of their vehicle.
As your facility grows, make sure to keep up with your accessible parking needs. Also, it’s imperative to keep your parking spaces well marked so that accessibility is clear. Team Cam can help you to restripe your lot quickly and efficiently so that you stay in compliance with ADA standards. We suggest that you restripe your parking lot every 12 to 18 months.
Exterior and Interior Access: Evaluating how people arrive at and move through your facility will identify existing or new barriers to accessibility that must be removed. ADA regulations require the following for barrier removal:
As you look at these access points more closely, remember that you must provide a “path of travel”. According to the ADA, a “path of travel” includes a continuous, unobstructed way of passage into and within a facility. An accessible “path of travel” involves sidewalks, curb ramps and other interior or exterior ramps; clear floor paths through lobbies, corridors, units, rooms and other improved areas; parking access aisles and elevators. These paths also include easy access to restrooms and drinking fountains. These paths must be wide enough for wheelchairs, completely free of debris or other obstructions and fully functional.
Exterior ramps such as curb ramps and ramps to exterior doorways are especially critical because weather and use can wear them down rather quickly. Repairing and replacing these elements should be at the top of your ADA correction plan. Team Cam can help you ensure your ramps are at their best so that your property is in compliance.
During the evaluation and correction stage, ensure that your interior access is still in ADA compliance. As you add tenants and make improvements, it’s easy to forget about these regulations. As stated above, your lease may assign the responsibility for interior compliance to your tenants but in the end, you may still be held responsible for any infractions. If corrections need to be made, Team Cam can work with you and your tenants to provide a detailed plan and budget to make the project as painless as possible.
Yes, regulations can be a huge pain and can cost you money. But ADA regulations are necessary to ensure that all Americans are able to have access to places of business, education, housing and more. Don’t forget, the more people who visit your property, the better your tenants’ business will be. It’s worth it.