In addition to renting units, many apartment owners/managers rent space for commercial enterprises (such as restaurants and stores) in their properties. Which can make good sense for both – providing a needed service or store with a ready-made group of people living extremely close by. All good, right?
But, remember that when you lease space to a commercial vendor and that tenant modifies the space for a restaurant and/or shop – make sure that the renovated site conforms with the accessibility guidelines in the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). While a landlord and a commercial tenant are certainly free to apportion costs as they see fit (including an indemnification clause) – if a disabled individual sues, both the landlord and commercial tenant will be named as defendants and the plaintiff will seek what is known as joint and several liability against them. An otherwise responsible party will most likely not be able to avoid liability to a plaintiff by simply pointing out that the other party (landlord or tenant) agreed to ensure the space met the accessibility guidelines. Yes, there will be a cross claim, but that will not get you out of the lawsuit. The reason for this policy is that it is presumed to be unfair to the disabled individual not to be able to sue a party who should otherwise be responsible for the failure to comply with the ADA.
What this means for property owners/managers is that if we rent space (and even if the cost of the renovation is agreed to be picked up by the tenant), we are still potentially responsible to ensure that the accessibility requirements are complied with. Another reason you might want to speak with a lawyer like me if you start down the path of renting commercial space in your property.
Just A Thought.