Greg Proctor, vice president of RealPage Compliance Services, preaches the need for more awareness of accessibility compliance issues with properties—and has done so for years. Out of all of the properties he has inspected, he has yet to find one that is completely in compliance with the regulations governing that property.
“While some of the issues on these properties are small, the properties are still out of compliance and are great liabilities to their owners and managers. Multifamily investors continue to brush off the seriousness of the problem, even with all of the lawsuits and complaints lodged against properties nationally,” Proctor says.
According to Proctor, the common excuses given for noncompliance include the following: a) there has never been a complaint before; b) a federal agency is overseeing a regulatory agreement on the property and has inspected the property for accessibility compliance; c) the owner and manager performed an accessibility review in the past.
Proctor says that nothing could be further from the truth, “The responsibility for accessibility compliance falls squarely on the owner’s shoulders. Regulatory agencies are not tasked with performing accessibility reviews for properties, so the agencies should not be relied on to ensure compliance. In addition, accessibility reviews performed in the past are only a snapshot in time. The property may have changed since then. New striping on the parking lot, installation of new faucets or door handles, new thermostats, etc.”
Increasing accessibility compliance awareness
While there continues to be some apathy regarding accessibility compliance, new federal and judicial developments—along with compliance education—may change the minds of property owners and managers.
In its 2017, 36-page report, Overcoming Obstacles to Policies for Preventing Falls by the Elderly, the Department of Housing and Urban Development found many of these falls are caused by amenities or design features that are not in compliance. In addition, recent cases against multifamily property owners by the Department of Justice show the threat of lawsuits for noncompliance is real. There are also several misconceptions regarding the application of the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disability Act laws.
Benefits of accessibility compliance
According to Megan Davidson, an insurance expert and vice president at Alliant Insurance Services, insurance agencies are always looking for ways to reduce or mitigate risk on multifamily properties. “Reducing claims and preventing injuries is a goal shared by everyone. Having a plan of action to correct areas of noncompliance or issues allows us to charge less for an insurance premium,” Davidson says.
Proctor agrees. “Not only does making sure your property is in compliance with all of the applicable regulations help mitigate risk and potentially save on insurance premiums, it is the right thing to do. Accessibility laws were enacted for a reason; they support individuals with disabilities by helping them have the same access to your properties and programs as anyone else.
Learn more about compliance and accessibility plans by watching this on-demand webcast, or visit RealPage.com.