All properties must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 1990 and the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988. Non-compliance could result in huge damage settlements and costly lawsuits. Property management can prevent exposure to such risks provided they simply understand the laws and rules about accessibility compliance.
One of the major misconceptions is that apartment units are automatically accessibility compliant when they are newly built. However, this is not usually so because ADA approval may not have been given by a federal or state agency such as HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development). There is no check carried out by HUD or state agencies to see if the newly constructed units are accessible.
Running into Problems
This means if the architect has not designed the property according to accessibility laws then the property could get into trouble when there is a tax credit inspection by a state agency, and it could be much worse when a mobility-impaired tenant files a lawsuit. In the past few years, there have been number of accessibility violations, and apartment properties had to pay huge settlement for damages and many were in seven figures.
There are fantastic chances that many properties are non-compliant with accessibility rules, even if the builder has completed the transition and self-evaluations plans required in 1989 by HUD. Most of the compliance issues, which were reviewed about 25 years back, may not be relevant, as the property could have changed for a variety of reasons. Even though the rules of the Fair Housing Act do not change often, the level of required compliance of the property might change. For instance, a thermostat being replaced in an apartment unit might be placed too high.
Suitable Outside Help
To determine potential risks of non-compliance, it would be a stellar idea to have the property professionally assessed for accessibility compliance. Look at the charges as an investment in risk management, since it can save the property millions of dollars in lawsuits. It is strategic to have the assessment done by a professional team, since it can be a daunting task. One has to be knowledgeable about the many local, state, and federal rules, and know which of them apply to the age of the property.
Areas of Focus
Most accessibility non-compliance problems arise when the property is older, the thresholds are high, the accessible parking spaces are not enough, and thermostats and switches are not easily accessible. Other issues include narrow doors and not enough floor area for accommodating wheelchairs, and blocked sidewalks due to parked cars.
Do not Fix what is not Broken
Therefore, it is best for property management to detect accessibility issues early and have them sorted out immediately. Secondly, even if the property has been checked and has been certified earlier, it is prudent to do an inspection now to make sure it still complies with accessibility rules. Whenever, there are renovations and repairs, make sure to keep accessibility rules in mind and do not alter the original placements of switches and thermostats, especially when the property has be inspected previously and it has passed all the requirements.