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Who’s responsible for ADA compliance: Landlords or tenants?

On Behalf of | Apr 10, 2024 | ADA |

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) created numerous obligations for property owners, businesses and landlords. Under the ADA, organizations have an obligation to make facilities accessible to everyone regardless of their physical condition. The ADA also prohibits discrimination in employment and housing.

Providing physical accommodations, including ramps and accessible bathrooms, may require substantial changes to existing facilities. Many modern businesses do not own the facilities where they operate but instead rent commercial space from a landlord. Is a landlord or a tenant the party responsible for ADA issues at a rented commercial space?

The type of issue determines who is liable

Commercial lease arrangements are vastly different from one case to the next. Some landlords have multi-tenant units where they maintain shared spaces like bathrooms and parking lots while the tenants maintain individual units. Other times, tenants take control over an entire commercial space and have responsibility for all maintenance and repairs.

The type of business, the type of lease and the accessibility issues reported all influence whether the landlord or the tenant is ultimately responsible for ADA violations. Technically, under the law, both parties could have an equal degree of responsibility.

In a shared space, issues accessing the building or the bathroom might be the responsibility of the landlord. Those shared spaces require landlord maintenance and upkeep. However, issues within the individual rental units may be the responsibility of the individual business tenants. In some cases, both parties may have a degree of responsibility for the claims of an employee or patron about accessibility issues.

Complex disability claims require careful review

Lawsuits and allegations of ADA violations often require careful review if a business or landlord hopes to mount an effective response. In cases involving rented commercial properties, thoroughly analyzing the terms of the lease and the nature of the complaint against a business can help establish whether the landlord or the business tenant is ultimately the party liable to make repairs or provide accommodations.

In some cases, businesses renting commercial spaces may be able to defend against lawsuits by proving that the landlord is the party responsible for issues with ADA non-compliance. Understanding the complexities of ADA compliance may help businesses put together a viable strategy for responding to claims of maintaining inaccessible spaces.