June 25th, 2013

Alert: Effective July 1, 2013 New Law Requires Access Disclosures in Commercial Leases

NEW LEASES MUST STATE WHETHER PROPERTY HAS BEEN INSPECTED BY CERTIFIED ACCESS SPECIALIST

Under newly added Section 1938 of the California Civil Code, commercial property owners are required to state in all leases and rental agreements executed on or after July 1, 2013 whether the property being leased or rented has undergone inspection by a Certified Access Specialist (CASp), and, if so, whether the property has or has not been determined to meet all applicable construction-related accessibility standards pursuant to Section 55.53 of the Civil Code.  Section 1938 only requires disclosure; it does not require that a CASp inspection be obtained.

Commercial property landlords in California will need to revise lease and rental forms in order to comply with the new requirements.  The new law fails to define “commercial property,” but we recommend that all new leases include the Section 1938 disclosures to avoid any risk of liability.

NEW LAW ADDS PROTECTIONS FOR LANDLORDS AND BUSINESSES IN AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT CASES

The bill that added Section 1938 (SB 1186) also included provisions intended to curb predatory lawsuits alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, particularly those filed against small businesses.  These provisions include, but are not limited to, the following:  a ban on “demand for money” letters; a requirement that attorneys send a notice letter listing any alleged construction-related violations at least 30 days before filing a lawsuit; a prohibition on “stacking” of multiple claims to increase monetary damages; a requirement that a plaintiff explain the need for multiple visits to the same business with a known uncorrected barrier to access; and reduced damages against business owners who correct alleged violations within 30 to 60 days of receiving a complaint.

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