Everyone thinks it is, though. It’s a persistent rumor leading to poor decisions. I hear the grandfathering rumor all the time. All. The. Time.
So I feel the need to say it again. Just because the building is old doesn’t mean that your business doesn’t have to comply with the ADA. Grandfathering under the ADA does not exist.
Most California businesses find this out the hard way.
In California, a disabled plaintiff can get damages and attorneys’ fees for going to a business that is not to code under the ADA. So these suits are rampant and entire law firms exist just to bring them.
In other states, the availability of damages varies. So the attractiveness of a lawsuit to lawyers also varies. But, that doesn’t mean the businesses can’t or won’t get sued.
And if you are a commercial tenant, you probably won’t be able to blame it on the landlord. Quite the opposite: your landlord will also get sued and you’ll be required to indemnify him.
So beware. This is a trap for those who live in old towns, like our headquartered city of Saint Louis, Missouri.
Say your business is in a 100 year old brick warehouse.
Is it correct I’m grandfathered out of the Americans With Disabilities Act accessibility regulations?
Sorry. Grandfathering is a myth. It doesn’t exist under the ADA.
That means two things. First, you may not receive permits from the city to open or improve your business until you bring your building up to code.
Second, you could get sued.
The ADA is what’s called a “complaints driven” law. So someone who notices your building isn’t ADA accessible has the right to sue you.
However, in many states the plaintiff won’t be entitled to damages even if they win because the state has to make an extra law to create damages.
California is an example of a state that gives a plaintiff damages for bringing an ADA accessibility case.
But in all states, a lawsuit can result in a court order requiring you to bring your building into ADA compliance, even if it is expensive.
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