You own the building. Your lease might say that the store tenant has to pay for everything, including handicapped access. But the Americans with Disabilities Act makes both of you responsible and leaves it to the two of you to sort out the cost between yourselves. That’s why you have a lease, among other reasons.
But what if you’ve owned the building since before the ADA went into effect (in 1992), you ask? It depends. Don’t you hate when you hear that? Even when it’s true? And here it is true.
If you or your store tenant haven’t altered the building since before the ADA went into effect, you still have to make whatever changes are “readily achievable” to make it accessible to disabled people. According to the ADA Guide for Small Businesses published by U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice, “readily achievable” means removing physical barriers when it is “easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense.” What that means will be decided by a judge if the parties can’t agree.
But most of these cases settle because the ADA also says that if the plaintiff wins the defendants have to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees. Therefore, it is usually more cost effective to settle on specific changes to the building and the amount of the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees when those together will cost you less than it would to litigate the case even if you were to win.
If you have problems with your real estate in New York, contact Andrew Weltchek.