What happens when an existing building needs to be made compliant with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act? Who is in charge of making the necessary upgrades to ensure ADA compliance on commercial properties?
When it comes to commercial buildings, there are only two options: either the building owner is responsible, or the tenant is. Here’s a brief overview of when each situation may apply.
The tenant may be solely responsible for ADA compliance in some situations, while the tenant and property owner will share that responsibility in others.
A good rule of thumb is that any operational issues related to compliance within the tenant’s space are the tenant’s sole responsibility, while both the landlord and tenant will share responsibility for compliance with physical improvements within that space. Keep in mind that even if the lease for the space includes an overview of who is responsible for compliance in certain situations, courts do not have any responsibility to enforce those lease terms.
ADA compliant signage, then, would typically fall under the responsibility of the tenant, while changes such as ramps and elevators would be the shared responsibility of the tenant and the building owner within the tenant’s rented space.
Building owners are responsible for providing access to the property for all people, as well as an accessible travel route for all people to all areas of the building governed by the ADA. Whenever improvements are made to the buildings, the business owner is expected to correct any areas of noncompliance, though the removal of barriers to accessibility that is easy to accomplish could be required during standard operations.
The owner bears sole responsibility for entry to the building, accessible parking areas, and parts of the building that are open to the public but not leased by tenants, such as hallways, mall areas, some lobbies and common areas.
In some cases, if there is a dispute between the owner and the tenant over who is responsible for making certain ADA compliance upgrades, the final decision as to who is responsible for those upgrades and the extent of the modifications lies with the Department of Justice.
For more information about tenant versus owner responsibility for ADA compliant improvements, specifically ADA signage, contact our team at Erie Custom Signs.