The caretaker for our tenant in #3 called last week, asking if a ramp could be built down our
tenant’s 3 front stairs, so that he could get in-and-out of his unit using his wheel-chair. She said that Mr. William’s insurance company would pay for both the installation costs, and the costs of removing the ramp should Mr. Williams decide to move some time in the future.
Mr. Williams had been with us for years, had always been the ideal tenant. He visited our office occasionally and we all really cared about him. Naturally, we wanted to do what we could for him, as we should have. It’s also what we are required to do. It is what the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) expects us to do. To make reasonable accommodations, when possible.
Our first call was to the owner of the property, letting her know what was being asked. We reinforced the proposal that this would be done at no cost to her. As we would have expected, her first question was “So … what will it look like ?”. For what it’s worth, a subjective opinion that such a ramp would not “look good” is not likely to prevail in litigation if you were to refuse the request. If such a ramp can be built, and the ramp would not unreasonably prevent other tenants from entering or leaving their units, it would be prudent to approve such construction.
In this case, we did not yet know what the ramp would look like. We let the owner know that we recommended giving a preliminary approval, with the understanding that the ramp would be built with professional engineering, with appropriate permits, and construction by a licensed and insured contractor. All of these are reasonable conditions. Requiring appropriate permits insured that the finished ramp would not somehow impede the entry or emergency exit of the other tenants. Requesting that “the look” of the ramp be somewhat in keeping with the existing architecture and style of the building would not seem unreasonable, to me. We did ask to be shown the engineer’s drawings before we would give our final approval. We might suggest aesthetic improvements at that time, if needed.
This remains “Undiscovered Country”. Much hinges on the term “reasonable accommodation”, and there seems to be a lot of latitude in those words. Our guiding principle is that if it can be done with the appropriate permits, it should be allowed. This approach has worked well for us, so far.
Dear Readers: This article is the 238th in a series based on the lessons we have learned the hard way. The contents of these articles are merely opinions of the writer. They are not intended as specific legal advice and should not be relied upon for that purpose. Our practice is in constant refinement as we adjust the way we operate to an ever- changing market. I appreciate your questions, comments, suggestions, and solutions. Contact C. Finley Beven, JD, CPM, CCAM, 99