The Role of Certified Access Specialists in California Commercial Leases

Disability symbolsAuthor: Staff

State law in California requires property owners to make certain disclosures as part of any lease agreement for that property. When a lease involves commercial property, lessors must disclose certain matters related to accessibility for people with disabilities and their compliance with accessibility laws. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is perhaps the most well-known statute addressing this issue. Businesses that serve the public are required to meet various requirements under the ADA. To encourage ADA compliance, California created the Voluntary Certified Access Specialist (CASp) program. Commercial lessors must disclose to lessees whether a CASp has inspected the leased premises, along with the extent of improvements to the property resulting from an inspection. California real estate investors involved in leasing commercial property need to know about both their duty under accessibility laws and their disclosure obligations.

Accessibility Law

Title III of the ADA applies to privately owned businesses that serve the public, known as “public accommodations.” The ADA’s definition of a public accommodation covers a vast range of businesses, including—but absolutely not limited to—hotels, restaurants, theaters, convention centers, retail stores, service-oriented businesses like laundromats and gas stations, hospitals and other medical establishments, libraries, museums, parks, schools, and gyms. California law goes further, viewing the provisions of the ADA merely as “a floor of protection.”

The ADA prohibits public accommodations from discriminating on the basis of disability, which has its own extensive definition. Prohibited discrimination includes denying people access to a business altogether, providing unequal access, or providing access that, while equal to that of others, remains separate. Businesses must provide access “in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of the individual” with a disability. This might include new construction to improve accessibility and accommodate people with disabilities. A ramp that allows access to a building previously only accessible by stairs is just one example of an accommodation.

The CASp Program

California prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of multiple factors, including disability. In order to facilitate compliance with accessibility standards by private businesses operating public accommodations, California authorized the State Architect to establish the CASp program.

Businesses are encouraged to obtain a CASp inspection, in which a CASp inspects a site and determines whether it complies with applicable accessibility laws. If the CASp identifies deficiencies, they should make recommendations for improvements to the property. An inspection may also occur in response to a “construction-related accessibility claim,” in which case the report may become part of the public record.

CASp Disclosure Requirements

Commercial lessors are not required by state law to obtain a CASp inspection, except in the event of an accessibility claim, as described above. Any commercial lease signed on or after January 1, 2017, however, must disclose whether or not a property has had a CASp inspection.

A lessor must provide a prospective lessee with a copy of the inspection report at least 48 hours before they sign the lease. The lessee may terminate the lease without a penalty up to 72 hours after signing. If a CASp inspection identifies violations of accessibility standards, any repairs or improvements are presumed, under state law, to be the lessor’s responsibility, but the parties to the lease may agree otherwise.

More Blog Posts:

Ground Leases: What California Real Estate Investors Should Know, Titles and Deeds, September 25, 2017

California Real Estate Agents’ and Sellers’ Duty of Disclosure to Prospective Buyers, Titles and Deeds, September 18, 2017

What California Real Estate Investors Should Know About Commercial Leases, Titles and Deeds, August 10, 2017

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