Landlords, You're On the Hook

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability. Title III of the ADA requires that businesses provide accommodations to persons with disabilities and access that is equal or similar to that available to the general public. What many property owners do not realize is that the ADA applies to landlords, even if the landlord delegates disability accommodation to its tenant. Failing to understand this obligation can create significant liability exposure for a property owner.

Title III of the ADA applies to "public accommodations" (retail, service, and other businesses) and "commercial facilities" (office buildings, warehouses, factories, etc.) operated by private entities, including owners or landlords. A landlord, as an owner of a place of "public accommodation," has an independent obligation to comply with the ADA that cannot be discharged by contradictory provisions in a contract with a tenant. (Kelly D. Stohs)

Examples:

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What Property Owners Need to Know:

At this time, every rental property, regardless of when it was built, allows for disabled tenants to make reasonable requests for accommodations and modifications to the residence related to their disability. Disabled renters may also ask landlords to make changes to the property policies or rules in ways that help to make life easier for them pertaining to their disabilities. An example of such an accommodation might be giving them priority for the most easy-access units, such as those located on the first floor.
Rental property sidewalks, doors, entryways, and hallways must be accessible to disabled persons. Both interior and exterior common areas must also be compliant. (Landlord Station)

WHO IS CONSIDERED DISABLED?

Under the ADA, landlords are prohibited from inquiring about the exact nature of a person’s disability even if the disability is highly visible, for example if the prospective tenant uses a wheelchair. However the ADA addresses what is legally considered a disability in clear, concise language. To be covered under the ADA, “a person must have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities”. A partial list of protected disabilities include: (Elizabeth Hayes)

  • Mobility impairments

  • Hearing impairments

  • Visual impairments

  • Chronic alcoholism (if it is being addressed through a recovery program)

  • Mental illness

  • HIV, AIDS, and AIDS-Related Complex

  • Mental retardation

Defining What's Reasonable:

Reasonable accommodations for disabled tenants hinge on use of the word "reasonable," both in terms of cost and changes to rules and practices. The cost to a landlord for a disabled tenant's reasonable accommodations request must also be reasonable in light of that particular landlord's situation. For example, it isn't reasonable to expect "mom-and-pop" landlords to install elevators for disabled tenants. Accommodations for disabled rental dwelling tenants imposing undue financial or administrative burdens on landlords usually aren't deemed reasonable. However, the below reasonable accommodations fall within the landlords responsibility: (H Guides)

At No Place Like Home Remodeling we understand that owning rental property has various challenges and sometimes hidden pitfalls. We always recommend being ‘proactive’ in the ADA compliance arena whether you’re the tenant or landlord. Do you own rental property, but you’re not really sure where to start as far as having a compliant building? Are you looking for ideas on how to better serve your disabled tenants? We’re here to help! Send us an email or call today for your free estimate! We look forward to hearing from you!