If you’re in charge of overseeing a residential property, you have quite a bit on your plate already. However, understanding and adhering to ADA accessibility guidelines for apartments should be made a top priority.
Because there are many common misconceptions about ADA accessibility guidelines for apartments. Without a firm grasp of exactly what a property manager’s responsibility is when renting to individuals with disabilities, you could wind up…
- Breaking the law
- Losing a tenant
- Tarnishing your reputation
- Paying for unnecessary renovations
Though it’s crucial to maintain a welcoming environment for all of your tenants and visitors, you also need to protect yourself and your company by learning as much as possible about how the ADA impacts your property.
With that in mind, let’s look at how the ADA applies to private residential dwellings.
How Does the ADA Apply to Private Residential Dwellings?
First things first: It’s worth noting that the ADA was signed into law in 1990 as a way to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Since its inception, it has provided protection for such individuals, ensuring they have the same rights, opportunities, and access as anyone else.
The ADA is divided into 5 sections (or Titles) that cover the following:
- Public Services: State and Local Government
- Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities
- Miscellaneous Provisions
What you likely noticed is that none of the sections listed above mention private residences.
This is because private residential housing is not covered by the ADA.
However, before you assume that this means you’re not required to adhere to any ADA accessibility guidelines for apartments, you should keep in mind that it can affect some housing properties in some cases.
- Government-owned and/or operated housing facilities are subject to ADA rules and regulations.
- Residential properties provided by educational institutions are subject to ADA rules and regulations.
- Public accommodations in residential buildings are subject to ADA rules and regulations.
If your property is privately owned and leased for general living purposes, then you can disregard the first two scenarios. But you should pay attention to the third.
What this means is that all public areas of your apartment complex—such as the rental office, public restrooms, parking lot, and other shared spaces—should be accessible to those with disabilities.
However, the lengths to which you must go to ensure accessibility depend on when your property was built.
If your apartment complex was constructed prior to 1990, you must remove barriers to access of public areas when doing so is “technically feasible” and “readily achievable.” Put another way, modifications must be made if they are “easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.”
If your apartment complex was constructed after 1990, all public areas of your facility must be fully compliant in terms of allowing access to individuals with disabilities. Though the parties involved in the construction should have considered this during the build, it’s always a good idea to perform an audit of your property.
How Do ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Apartments Differ from Those for Commercial Properties?
As you may have guessed, ADA accessibility guidelines for apartments are unlike those for commercial properties in that private residential facilities aren’t required to follow all rules outlined by the ADA.
Public spaces in your apartment complex should be accessible to all individuals, but the same rules don’t apply directly to your tenants’ units.
Additionally, ADA accessibility guidelines for apartments differ from those for commercial properties in regard to financial responsibility.
For commercial properties, the owner bears sole responsibility 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. The tenant is responsible for any operational issues related to compliance within a rented space.
For private residential facilities, the landlord bears responsibility for any accommodations they make for disabled tenants, along with modifications made to public areas. However, the tenant is responsible for all requested modifications to a unit.
What Features Should You Consider When Renovating an Existing Building?
If you’re concerned that your complex doesn’t meet ADA accessibility guidelines for apartments, you should take a close look at the following features:
- Parking spaces – Make sure that accessible parking spaces (clearly marked) for both cars and vans are available near entrances.
- Doorways – Make sure that doorway openings in public areas provide a clear width of between 32 inches (minimum) and 48 inches (maximum).
- Hallways – Make sure that public hallways are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair and allow it to turn around with ease.
- Signage – Make sure that signs identifying restrooms, exits, and other permanent, public spaces have Braille and raised letters or numbers. They must also meet requirements for mounting location, color contrast, and non-glare finish.
- Restrooms – Make sure that public restrooms have accessible stalls and clear floor spaces for each fixture.
- Handrails – Make sure there are handrails on both sides of stairs and ramps in public areas. They must be continuous with the full length of each stair flight or ramp run.
- Elevators – Make sure elevators are clearly marked and accessible by those in wheelchairs. If an elevator does not meet the ADA’s minimum clearance requirements but can be accessed by a person in a wheelchair, it may not need to be replaced if doing so would not be “technically feasible” or “readily achievable.”
It should be noted that this is not an exhaustive list of all the features you may need to modify or replace in your facility. However, it does cover many of the major features open to both tenants and visitors that should be compliant.
Although ADA accessibility guidelines for apartments are a little more confusing than those for commercial facilities, the information provided should clear up some of the questions you have about achieving compliance in your own complex.
If you’re particularly interested in getting new ADA-compliant signage to identify restrooms and other public areas, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at Erie Custom Signs.