Question: I'm about to purchase a building so my wife can finally open the craft store she has always dreamed about. I understand the rules about zoning and commercial real estate but someone just mentioned the ADA. What's that about?
Answer: My first suggestion is that you meet with your local authorities to be sure that you do have a complete list of all the businesses, codes and laws that apply to you, your wife and your wife's new business.
The ADA is the acronym for the Americans with Disabilities Act. This requires that reasonable accommodations be made to provide the disabled with access to commercial premises and forbids discrimination against persons with disabilities. Unfortunately, the law does not clearly define some of the terms it includes. What is a "reasonable accommodation" to one person may not be reasonable to another. It does not clearly define disability either and some court rulings have indicated that those with emotional illnesses, dyslexia and past drug and alcohol abusers are included.
It is clear that the disabled must be able to get to, enter and use facilities in commercial premises and that access must be readily available without undue burden or undue hardship. If your property is not easily accessible to the disabled, it must be made so. If you remodel an existing building, modifications must be made to make the premises accessible. Clearly, new construction must be built to be accessible.
What is reasonable usually depends on the size of the business. Small businesses like your wife's should not have to make major alterations if the expense would pose an undue hardship. There are also tax credits for businesses with fewer than 30 employees and less than $1 million in sales when modifications are made to comply with ADA. These changes could include installing ramps, widening doorways, making curb cuts in sidewalks, removing high-density carpets, installing full-length mirrors or repositioning shelves.
If you have not yet closed on the purchase of this building, you may want to fully investigate what needs to be done to comply with ADA. Injunctions and fines of $50,000 have been imposed for ADA offenses and you, the landlord and your wife, if she is the tenant, would be responsible.
If you are not clear about the requirements to comply, seek the advice of an attorney.
Attorney Sylvia Hedreth is a certified specialist in real estate law. Her office is located at 1215 Miramar St., in Cape Coral.
This article is not intended as specific legal advice to anyone and is based upon facts that change time to time. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting upon any matter involving the law.