Q: Who sets the standards for accessibility, what is a reasonable modification and who is financially responsible?
A: The ADA requires all properties where the public is invited, including a rental office, must be accessible unless:
- It is “technically infeasible” or poses an “undue financial burden” on the property. This includes not only rental offices but models, community areas and parking.
- If the building was first occupied after 3-13-91 and was not built to meet federal accessibility standards, then some modification, such as a ramp to access front door, must be paid by building however CA fair housing laws pertain to private areas, such as those only residents and their guest would use.
1. A reasonable modification is one designed to make living easier and safer for tenant: this includes:
- Widened doorways
- Lowered cupboards
- Grab bars
- Walk in tubs or roll in showers
- Safer floor surfaces
An unreasonable request could be asking for a load bearing wall to be moved or having an elevator installed on the property.
2.: After a request for a modification is made, the tenant must provide info to allow management to decide if the request is reasonable and work with the tenant to provide a quality modification.
3.: If the request appears unreasonable, management MUST attempt to negotiate an alternative solution
acceptable and workable to both parties.
4. Cost of modification, including necessary permits, is usually paid by the tenant, unless:
- The property has federal funding, then property bears expense.
- The property owner has specific aesthetic requests: then he bears difference between requested modification and owner’s requests.
- The modification request only involves public accessibility, such as a ramp to the front door and the building did not meet federal accessibility standards in place at the time of completion.
5. The modification is made, but any or all changes will need to be returned to original condition at great expense after tenant’s departure. The owner, under the law, may require the tenant to establish an interest-bearing escrow account to save funds to return the unit to original condition or a condition that is acceptable to a non-disabled person. This should be done with the advice of legal counsel as modifications and renovations can be very fact specific.