Legal Matters & Taxes Landlord Disability Law: Is Your Apartment ADA Compliant? by Ashley Lipman January 21, 2020February 6, 2020 by Ashley Lipman January 21, 2020February 6, 2020 A good property owner knows how to provide his or her tenants with exemplary service, no matter their circumstances. Senior housing is rising, and the baby boomer generation is aging and turning to apartment rental living, which means you should be aware of laws regarding accommodation for individuals with disabilities. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law, and it prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. ADA was partly created to ease the use of routinely assessed areas for disabled citizens. In terms of rental properties, the ADA guidelines differ based on the building’s construction date. Apartment blocks built before ADA fall under somewhat different rules than those put up after the creation of the regulations. Before-ADA Apartment Compliance Some building owners and managers wrongly believe that the ADA guidelines apply to new constructions or alterations. However, these guidelines also require the removal of accessibility barriers to older buildings, and you must understand the exact circumstances where barrier removal is necessary for ADA compliance. According to the rule, these changes are easy to accomplish and can be carried out without much expense. A checklist for existing facilities lists different examples of steps you can take to make your apartment building ADA-compliant. Some of these recommendations include adding curb cuts to entrances and sidewalks, widening doors, and eliminating low-density, high pile carpets. The checklist also mentions priorities that ought to be taken into consideration while adopting steps for eradicating accessibility barriers. These priorities, including making public restrooms accessible and changing the layout of moving tables, display racks, or using raised characters and Braille character signage. ADA-Compliance for New Constructions Apartment buildings put up after the effecting of the regulations should be fully complied with for easy access to public areas by the disabled. For this reason, your apartment should feature some of the basic accessibility features or provide handicap-accessible units in your building. Below are some of the things you can expect a disability apartment to have, and how they help the person living in it in their daily life: Hallways and entryways: These areas should be wide enough to comfortably accommodate a wheelchair, both in terms of width and space to allow a wheelchair to turn around comfortably in the rental property. Floor: Disability apartments usually feature a thin flat carpet or vinyl because it offers less resistance to a wheelchair. Related: Owning a Rental Property: The Best Flooring Options The sinks: An ADA-compliant apartment has space for the wheelchair under each sink, and the plumbing is designed to accommodate this requirement. The countertops: Ensure that countertops are lower, so it is easier to work on the surface from the wheelchair. Often, countertops are 30 inches off the ground, instead of the standard 36 inches. This design also means removing cabinets from under the sinks, so the countertops are more wheelchair-accessible. Bathrooms: Install roll-showers and grab bars in the bathrooms. Some units have bathrooms with benches, but you can always install a mobile seat instead. Further, the toilets are higher and have grab bars. Another vital factor is installing a faucet with a single lever in the sink instead of a valve with multiple knobs. The cabinets: Cabinets in handicap-accessible units are lower than you would find in a regular apartment. Besides, the apartment should have fewer cabinets at the floor level, so users have room for rolling in with a wheelchair right to the countertop. Appliances: Appliances such as stoves should be handicap-accessible with the knobs facing the front instead of on the back panel for easy and safer use. Light switches: Light controls should be placed lower for easy access from a wheelchair, while power outlets should be placed at different levels – in some places higher and others lower. An alarm system: While this is something your tenant brings along with him or her, some apartment owners already have a personal alarm system already set up. The system offers a convenient means of getting in touch with emergency services in case of falling or another emergency. Related: 5 Security Improvements That Will Give Real Estate Investors the Best ROI in Real Estate Handicap-designated parking: These parking spaces are set aside and marked for use by residents in wheelchairs or have other handicaps. The spaces are adjacent to your rental property or close and have a clear pathway leading to the door. Some parking spaces allow unloading a van. Common areas: If your newer apartment complex has a common area, make sure it is designed to accommodate residents in wheelchairs. The hallways of the common area should be wide, and the light switches placed low. Elevators and sidewalks leading to the common areas should have ramp access. Who Is Disabled? ADA prohibits rental property owners from inquiring about an individual’s nature of the disability, even when it is fully visible. For instance, when your prospective tenant uses a wheelchair to get around. On the other hand, the ADA sets forth a clear definition of what is considered a disability. According to the ADA, an individual should have a mental or physical disability that substantially limits him or her from carrying out one or several critical life activities. Some of the limitations recognized by the ADA include hearing impairment, mobility impairment, chronic alcoholism being treated, mental illness, and mental retardation. Proof of Disability As mentioned earlier, you are not allowed to inquire about the nature of or even ask for proof of disability as you process rental applications. However, if your tenant requests for accommodation after signing the lease, you can ask for evidence that their requests make the apartment more functional for the tenant. Related: Landlord-Tenant Law: Basics Every Real Estate Investor Should Know Under ADA regulations, you are expected to make “reasonable accommodations” for your renters. This means changing rules, policies or services, so individuals with a disability have an equal chance of using and enjoying their unit and common areas. The law requires that you accommodate an individual with a disability as long as their request does not cause an undue financial burden. Understanding Reasonable Modification Reasonable modifications involve structural modifications to public and apartment spaces, so people with disabilities get to enjoy your housing and facilities. Such changes require your prior approval and should be implemented by licensed contractors. You are allowed by law to ask a tenant to return a unit to its original condition should they decide to move. Rental property owners pay for accommodations, but many common area modifications are low cost or free – such as printing larger documents and designating a parking spot. Your tenants are responsible for structural changes unless the dwelling is listed as federally assisted housing. Conclusion Hunting for an apartment while in a wheelchair is challenging. It is prudent that you make sure that information on accessible units in your building is already available in the public before a prospective tenant goes to the trouble of visiting. Tour the complex with your tenant with a disability and ensure that it is easy for them to get around, and has the features they need to be comfortable. This article has been contributed by Ashley Lipman. Start Your Investment Property Search! START FREE TRIAL Guest Blogs 0 FacebookTwitterGoogle +PinterestLinkedin Ashley Lipman Ashley Lipman is an award-winning writer who discovered her passion for providing knowledge to readers worldwide on topics closest to her heart - real estate. Since her first high school award in Creative Writing, she continues to deliver awesome content through various niches and helping small businesses like The Urban Avenue. Previous Post Boise Real Estate Market: The #1 Market for 2020? 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