According to the Small Business Association, as of 2022, there were over four million small businesses in California. Many of those businesses rent their commercial properties from landlords because it is often more affordable than buying a building themselves.
If you are a landlord of a small business, you may receive a notice stating that your commercial business tenant is suing you. The reason: your rental property does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a commercial landlord, you must understand the implications of such a lawsuit and how to address it appropriately.
Your response to the lawsuit
Your initial reaction may be panic or confusion, but you need to approach this situation calmly. Start by verifying the claims made in the lawsuit. Examine your property and assess its compliance with the ADA regulations. If you find areas where your property does not meet these standards, you must consider ways to remedy these issues promptly.
Making necessary changes
The ADA requires commercial properties to be accessible to people with disabilities. This might mean installing ramps, widening doorways or adjusting restroom facilities. You must work towards making these improvements promptly. If you show good faith effort to rectify the non-compliance issues, it could positively influence the outcome of the lawsuit.
Communication is key
Throughout this process, maintain open communication with your tenant. Try to understand their concerns and show them that you are taking steps to address these issues. Be transparent about the improvements you are making and the timeline for completion. This approach may alleviate tensions and could even lead to a resolution without further legal involvement.
Preserving your business reputation
Facing an ADA compliance lawsuit can impact your reputation as a commercial landlord. As you navigate the legal proceedings, also consider ways to protect your business image. You could publicize the improvements you are making to your property to demonstrate your commitment to inclusivity and accessibility.
Understanding your legal obligations
To avoid similar lawsuits in the future, familiarize yourself with the ADA guidelines for commercial properties. Ensure that any future property improvements or renovations adhere to these standards. Educating yourself about your obligations under the law can help you maintain ADA-compliant properties and prevent other issues down the line.
Facing an ADA compliance lawsuit as a commercial landlord in California can be challenging, but taking swift, proactive steps can help. Remember, the aim is not just to resolve the lawsuit but also to create a commercial property that is accessible and inclusive for all.