As drive-by ADA lawsuits continue to punish small business owners, you may be scrambling to determine what must be done to your property to avoid any expensive court proceedings or fines. There are often rumors of buildings being “grandfathered in” with regard to ADA compliance, and you may have heard these rumors. They may give you the impression that if you have been in business for thirty years or longer, all these rules simply don't apply and you are protected. Unfortunately, those are just rumors.
There is no “grandfather clause”
When the first ADA standards were introduced in 1991, existing small businesses and some public buildings were allowed to avoid complying unless they added new construction or renovated their properties. In 2010, the updated regulations removed the “grandfather clause.” While you didn't have to instantly meet the 2010 standard, your property did have to meet the 1991 regulation.
The “Safe Harbor Rule” requires compliance
Meeting only the 1991 standard is called the Safe Harbor" rule. As the 2010 regulations rolled out new requirements for new structures, parking lots, and even sidewalks, your established business is only required to upgrade to the 2010 standard if you undergo renovations. However, the person filing a drive-by lawsuit probably doesn't know or care if you are legally in compliance with either standard.
What is the difference between the 1991 and 2010 standard?
This is the real problem facing your business and the courts. The revised standards include small stipulations for a wide range of access points such as parking lots, parking spaces, doors, elevators, ramps, hand rails, door knobs and work stations.
Only an expert in ADA compliance, such as an attorney, city inspector, or contractor will have a full understanding of the differences. It is often in the property owner's best interest to reach out for assistance from the ADA or city to bring everything up to date before any of these costly lawsuits have a chance to be filed, for compliance seems to be the only real defense in the current litigious atmosphere.