Tenants and potential tenants with disabilities may find it challenging to access some areas within an apartment complex, some areas of which may be covered by the ADA, including those areas used as a rental office and parking and walkways leading to a rental office or manager’s office. The Americans with Disabilities Act forbids discrimination against people with disabilities and requires some buildings (or some aspects of the property) to comply with the law. Violations of the ADA could result in Paying penalties, damages, and large attorney fees. California, for example, can impose a minimum of $4,000 for each occurrence, plus a second penalty where the owner would have to pay the Plaintiff’s attorney’s fees in addition to the owner’s attorney’s fees, on top of having to make certain modifications to the property.
Another area of concern is Reasonable Accommodation requests. These requests have two components. First, is a timely response to the request being made by a tenant, potential tenant, or someone on behalf of the renter or would-be renter. The fact that the owner or management engaged in or offered to engage in meaningful dialogue as soon as possible following the request, should be documented. Second, the owner should consider the request, and the impact it might make on another tenant, on the property, and financial considerations, including if the tenant is willing to pay for the cost and restore the property to its original condition at a later time. All apartment buildings must consider requests for modifications or accommodations regardless of when they were built. For example, some renters need a ramp, lower countertops, a handrail for tubs, or accommodations for emotional support animals. The changes must be reasonable, and they are still subjected to approval by the landlord. For example, an elevator could be an unreasonable change if the building doesn’t have one.
The tenant should be prepared to pay for accommodations or to re-modify the space back to its original state after they leave and demonstrate their ability to pay for this.
Landlords who don’t comply with ADA law might get sued, which could result in hefty penalties, damages, and the cost of having to pay for the Plaintiff’s attorney’s fees as well as their own attorney’s fees. If a landlord believes that they have complied with ADA law or that the modification request is unreasonable, they should seek legal assistance.