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Commercial real estate agent says property owners must protect against the ADA

Apparent lawsuit abuse related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is costing property owners in California tens of thousands of dollars with costs passed along to tenants and shoppers.

The website, ADA Abuse.com, states there have been 14,000 ADA/accessibility suits in the past few years filed by a small number of attorneys.

The lawsuits are happening in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and smaller cities. Commercial real estate agent Peter Silvester calls the actions "predatory" and says the problems are affecting property owners with shallow pockets.

"The infractions might be a door knob that's a few inches from being ADA compliant. In other cases there are boxes or aisles that aren't wide enough per ADA standards," said Peter, a commercial property agent with Keller Williams in Los Angeles.

"This is how they can go after the business itself or the property owner depending on where the violation lies. Lawyers say they have a higher motive of serving the disabled community, but if they wanted to serve the community they would have more inspections to make sure buildings are up to code."

Peter said he advises clients to do what they can to be prepared. At a minimum, properties should be held in a Limited Liability Corporation and investors buying a building need to ensure inspections are conducted for ADA compliance.

"When purchasing a commercial building make sure you have it investigated to be up to ADA standards. You can also call the local city inspectors. If you do, you'll need to follow through on repairs or renovations they note and this could be costly."

He said the most vulnerable buildings that are prime targets for lawsuits are older ones that are grandfathered in.

"Attorneys and individuals are activists. There was a case in Sacramento where the owner was on site and never saw the individual who made the complaint."

For more information, visit Peter Silvester's website and ADAabuse.com for details on specific cases.