The Americans with Disabilities Act for Landlords And Property Managers
The Americans with Disabilities Act, commonly known as “ADA” is a federal civil-rights law protecting the rights of people with disabilities. The ADA places guidelines for access to:
- State and local government programs, services and buildings
- Access to places of public accommodation such as businesses, transportation, and non-profit service providers
The scope of the law is fairly broad and addresses many of the obstacles affecting the participation of people with disabilities within society. Many of the ADA’s civil rights protections parallel the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the protections it established for racial, religious minorities and women.
Occasionally, management companies may be faced with a lawsuit for non-compliance with ADA laws. These compliance problems are usually preventable as many times they result from violations which stem from the lack of proper guidelines, policies, procedures, and/or practices regarding accessibility. Implementing current policies can go a long way toward avoiding the expense associated with ADA lawsuits.
As owners, landlords, managers, and tenants can be jointly and severally liable in the event of non-compliance. Making it important to ensure you have safe practices in place to address any ADA issue. Although a landlord may not shift liability for ADA compliance to their tenants, a properly drafted lease may call for the tenant to remediate. Remember though, tenants cannot be held liable for violations in areas which are not under their exclusive control, such as common areas.
Investors who purchase real estate need to take a serious look at their property during the inspection period. Acquiring an asset which does not comply can be a large expense when bringing it to code. It also puts you in a position for a potential lawsuit.
If you find the property you are acquiring does not meet current ADA standards, be sure to get a bid from a licensed contractor who is adept at addressing ADA issues to bring the property to code. Also, hold additional funds in escrow or ask for a reduction in the sales price to adjust. Alternatively, an investor may want to hire a professional ADA consultant to determine if the building (due to the age of construction, use, and possibly the cost to remediate) is exempt for ADA compliance.
Property Management companies typically are not held liable for the ADA compliance (unless they purposely act in violation of the law), as they are acting as agents for the landlord. As a property owner, you want to be sure you have a property management company you know will not put you at risk. I always recommend taking regular meetings with your property management company to go over all aspects of your investments, and confirm all inspections are handled. It also goes without saying, get it in writing!
Real estate agents need to be aware of the rules governing the ADA, but it’s not common for them to offer any advice. Typically it goes beyond the scope of their job and may create liability for them. However, they should be able to refer you to a reputable, professional ADA compliance consultant to advise on compliance.
For further information go to https://www.ada.gov/