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My Building Is Not ADA Compliant; Do I Need To Make Modifications?

Many older buildings will not be compliant with current ADA and other accessibility requirements.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law passed in 1990 established protections for people with disabilities. Among other things, the Act required new construction to comply with certain requirements to make the facilities accessible to the disabled, and the removal of barriers to access in existing buildings. This applies even if your building was built before ADA became effective. There is a common misconception that some buildings have been “grandfathered” and are not required to comply with ADA, but ADA does not protect buildings built before passage of the Act.

Buildings built before the Act (ADA) will likely be deficient in meeting those requirements, and since local building departments are not responsible for enforcing ADA requirements, deficiencies are also commonly found in newer buildings. Property Condition Assessments performed before acquisition of a property frequently include a screen for compliance with Title III of ADA, though a detailed accessibility survey can provide a more complete picture of compliance with ADA and other accessibility regulations.

When an ADA Survey identifies deficiencies, though, when does an existing building need to be made compliant with ADA or other accessibility requirements?

ADA Compliance for Tenant Improvements

Both the tenant and property owner are responsible for ADA compliance within area occupied by tenants. This responsibility may be allocated by the lease, but courts have no responsibility to enforce lease terms in ADA litigation. Generally, operational issues within the tenant space will be the responsibility of the tenant, while both the landlord and tenant may be responsible for compliance of the physical improvements.

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