ADA Regulations now in Effect – Are you prepared?
Along with the ever-shifting economy, daily problems at the office as well as those on site at your facilities comes just another headache that can be added to the list. ADA regulations that were established more than two decades ago have recently been updated for the first time earlier this year and are causing quite the stir in the self-storage industry. The new regulations passed, covering everything from restroom requirements to units handicap accessible, are not only already in affect, but could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars if not adhered to promptly. So what are the regulations that could cost you your facility? Glad you asked. Below is a list of the major regulations recently set forth by the ADA:
• 5% of units in facilities 1-200 Units must be handicap accessible;
2% of additional units in facilities 201 Units and greater must be handicap accessible
• Accessible spaces must have doors that can be opened with one hand, and shall not require tight grasping, pinching or twisting of the wrist. The door can also not exceed 5lbs. of pressure to open
• Entry lips cannot exceed ¼ inch
• There can be no slope within 5 feet of an entry way
• Bathrooms are readily accessible and equipped
Any individual denied access under these ADA requirements can bring a lawsuit under Title 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Many of these issues are not “quick and easy fixes” and will most likely take time and money to get them right. The key, however, in approaching these repairs will be to, “show a good faith effort to comply” according to the ADA. With these factors in mind, lets review the major issues that come along with the new regulations.
First, converting units to meet ADA specifications is a lot more difficult that it may seem at first glance. These units need to be able to be opened with 5lbs. of pressure or less. In my opinion this is nearly impossible, unless you have built a facility in the past two or three years, planned ahead and installed the adjustable springs. Otherwise, the majority of us is out of luck and will have to invest a large sum of money to purchase new springs that may or may not meet these requirements. Or one could also simply invest in swing doors, but then that requires the complete alteration of the frame and structure that lures out a number of other issues. Second, those who do not have a relatively flat surface leading up to the unit, and a unit with a lip less than ¼ inch are facing even more issues. The issue with the slope leading up to the facility, is that it is specifically designed so that runoff flows away from the unit. This regulation shift is ultimately forcing those with interior units to use those to meet ADA requirements. But where does that leave owners of facilities that are completely exposed to the elements? Long ramps and flush lips for the entryways seem to be the only solution to the issue at hand.
In addition to the costly improvements that need to be made out on facility itself, the office is coming at quite the price tag as well. With lower counters, wider doors and more up fitted bathrooms required by the ADA, it seems as though an entire office renovation might be in store for some owners.
Despite all of the hassles and costs that come with the alterations that need to be made to make your facility fit ADA regulations, it is cheaper than not doing it and entering a lawsuit over the lack of up fitting. A first time offense of any of these regulations comes at a hefty $50,000 fine, and a second offense at a $100,000 fine. On top of both of these one will have to pay all of the court fees, attorney fees, as well as meet ADA requirements at that point in time. So why not go ahead and take care of these issues now, before you have to do it later and at quite the cost. Soon enough, with such an easy target as this, there will be attorneys advertising on TV about people not being able to “properly access” a facility, that could lead to national attention on our industry and numerous lawsuits.
To make matters worse, there are so many loops or gaps in the requirements that leave room for these legal attacks and expose owners to a range of issues. For instance, showing a “good faith effort to comply” opens up the door for a wide range of speculation as to what that actually defines. This entire shift in regulation has begun to create a whirlwind of issues for the self storage industry and will continue to do so for years to come.