As the owner of a California apartment building, you work hard to make your property as safe and welcoming for your tenants as possible. Like other commercial property owners, you have many laws and regulations to follow, including at the local, state and federal levels. Among those regulations are those related to providing access to those with disabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act went into effect in 1990, so if your building existed prior to that, there are some exceptions for you. However, it is important that you understand how the laws apply to you and your property and what your obligations are if one of your tenants requests accommodations.
If your property is pre-ADA, the regulations affect only the public areas in your building. In other words, you are not responsible for making every unit ADA compliant since this would likely be cost-prohibitive. However, in any common areas, you must do your best to remove anything that would be a barrier to someone with a disability. Under normal circumstances, your building should be accessible in these areas:
- Doors must be standard width and have ADA compliant handles.
- Entryways must have wheelchair accessibility.
- Halls must comply with ADA width requirements.
- Sidewalks must have the correct slope and curb ramp.
- Public rest rooms must be ADA compliant.
- Your building must have parking spaces reserved for the disabled.
Installing an elevator or providing a ramp into the building may be considered unreasonable accommodations, so you may be excused from these if your building was constructed prior to 1990. However, it is best to check with an attorney who is well-versed in ADA law.
Typically, you are not responsible for making accommodations in the private living areas of your tenants. However, you may approve such changes if your tenant requests to make them. It is not your financial burden to bear if a tenant requests to modify the apartment to accommodate his or her disability, and you may agree to the changes with the understanding that the tenant return the apartment to its original state before vacating.
A prospective tenant may have a priority for a unit with more accessibility. Also, allowing a service animal in an apartment despite your no-pets policy is an easy accommodation. It may include informing your other tenants of the reason for the exception and reaching an agreement with the tenant concerning his or her responsibility for cleanup after the animal and repairs for damages the animal may cause. Dealing with accommodations can be tricky, and your attorney can be a good resource for information about ADA law.