Americans With Disabilities Act: New Accessbility Rules for Self-Storage Construction and Renovation

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Scoping. Five percent if the facility has fewer than 200 units, 10 units plus 2 percent if more than 200.

Dispersion. Accessible units should be dispersed among “classes” of spaces provided. Since the term classes is undefined in the standards, it could mean either the size or type of unit such as climate-controlled. If there are more classes than the number of accessible units required, operators do not need to have additional accessible units just to have one in each class.

There also appears to be no need to disperse the accessible units among buildings in a multi‑building facility. As with hotels, there appears to be no requirement to hold the unit back from rental solely for a disabled customer if other spaces are otherwise rented and the space is needed.

However, the requirements have created many questions with few clear answers. For example, are roll-up doors accessible? Is there a requirement as to the minimum force needed to open a self-storage door? Should doors open electrically (garage-door operations) or sideways? Should a ramp be placed over the concrete lip installed in the doorway, and must the lip not exceed a certain height?

Meet Requirements Now

Notwithstanding these many questions concerning the units themselves, storage operators should consider accessibility issues during facility construction or renovation. Now is the time to determine if your business meets compliance with areas such as entry-pad heights, parking spaces, ramps to offices, counter heights and restroom design. The national Self Storage Association is seeking additional guidance from the Department of Justice concerning the scoping requirements relating specifically to self-storage facilities.

The ADA is not a building code, and Title III of the Act doesn’t have any direct effect on state and local building codes. The ADA allows the U.S. Attorney General to certify that a state law, local building code or similar ordinance meets or exceeds the minimum accessibility requirements for public accommodations in commercial facilities.

However, accessibility compliance can be tested by the Department of Justice as well as private citizens bringing complaints under a private right of action. Self-storage facilities that fail to comply with the law may find themselves subject to liability for non-compliance. Operators need to review these issues before the March 15, 2012, deadline to prepare themselves for the risk of claims.

Scott Zucker is a partner in the Atlanta-based law firm of Weissmann Zucker Euster Morochnik, P.C., where he specializes in business litigation with an emphasis on real estate, landlord-tenant and construction law. Zucker is a frequent speaker at national conventions and the author of Legal Topics in Self Storage: A Sourcebook for Owners and Managers. He’s also a partner in the Self Storage Legal Network, a subscription-based legal service for self-storage owners and managers. To reach him, call 404.364.4626; e-mail scott@wzlegal.com .

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