What Property Owners Need to Know about the ADA

What Property Owners Need to Know about the ADA

People with disabilities often struggle with everyday activities that most of us take for granted. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was created in 1990 to help make life easier for disabled people.

The ADA applies to rental properties as well, and landlords should be aware of pertinent ADA guidelines. Some of the laws vary depending on when the property was built. Homes, apartment and condos for rent that were built before the ADA took effect (January 26, 1990) have slightly different requirements than those constructed after this date. All landlords should be aware of the ins and outs of the Americans with Disabilities Act in order to stay compliant.

Reasonable Requests for Modifications

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. However, requests for special elevators, ramps, and financially expensive and difficult to achieve modifications by disabled tenants is not mandatory under the ADA. For example, a tenant’s request for a personal elevator would be considered unreasonable; however, designating a few “disabled only” parking spaces in the parking lot is both fair and financially viable for most landlords.

Properties Built Before the ADA Took Effect

Properties that were already in existence before January 26, 1990, abide by different rules than properties built after this date. The focus is on the public areas of multi-unit properties. These properties are required to remove any obstacles to access by disabled tenants wherever possible and readily feasible; that is, not requiring too much expense or undue difficulty for the landlord.

Properties Built After the ADA Took Effect

Rental properties that were built after ADA regulations went into effect in 1990 must ensure access for disabled persons to designated common areas such as on-site laundry facilities, the rental office, public restrooms, and lounge areas that are meant for residents and their visitors. However, the interiors of rental units are not subject to these requirements.

Financial Responsibility

When it comes to major personal interior modifications of units made by a disabled renter, the cost of these changes and updates must be taken care of by the tenant. They may also have to bear the costs of restoring the unit back to its original state if and when they decide to move out; however, this can be negotiated with the landlord, who may want to keep the modifications to the unit in some cases.

That said, ADA rules state that landlords must pay for the “reasonable accommodations and modifications” made after a request by the tenant. Anything beyond reasonable is the responsibility of the tenant. Again, while a handrail installed in the bathroom and non-slip paint on a porch are reasonable requests of landlords, a brand new elevator or stair lift in the unit would be the tenant’s financial responsibility.