Address ADA Violations Immediately
Tenants have many responsibilities when it comes to the space they lease, and issues that aren’t of immediate importance, namely those things that turn a profit, can get lost in the shuffle. But don't be unconcerned about Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations in your store or office because you don't think the government will discover those violations—or because you don't want to spend the money to correct the violations unless you're forced to.
Most ADA violations are discovered by individuals protected by the ADA or by ADA advocacy groups, who are increasingly targeting retailers with lawsuits alleging minor, easily correctable ADA violations. And often these lawsuits are filed by attorneys seeking a quick settlement and the payment of their clients' attorney's fees. If you get sued for an ADA violation, you could end up paying more than you would have had to pay to correct it in the first place—and suffer the bad publicity associated with such a lawsuit.
If you get sued over a minor and easily correctable ADA violation, don't drag your feet in addressing the violation. The best way to protect your wallet—and your store or office's reputation—is to promptly correct the violation. Then have your attorney move to dismiss the lawsuit as moot. If the court dismisses the lawsuit, which it's likely to do if the violation has been corrected, you'll avoid the bad publicity a drawn-out legal battle can generate. And since the other side isn't the prevailing party in the lawsuit, you'll probably get out of paying its attorney's fees.
To avoid a lawsuit altogether, check to make sure that you're in compliance with the ADA. Keep an eye out for the most common commercial real estate ADA violations: inaccessible bathrooms and fitting rooms; lack of proper signage; inaccessible sales counters; pay telephones, towel dispensers, and bag dispensers that are at improper heights; checkout aisles that are too narrow; barriers outside supermarkets that are designed to keep shopping carts from being removed but unintentionally keep wheelchairs from getting in; and store aisles that are too narrow or too crowded with merchandise for individuals in wheelchairs to navigate.
To test how much you know about ADA responsibilities, take our quiz, “Who’s Responsible for Making Tenants’ Space ADA Accessible,” available to subscribers here.