The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the 1990 civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It has caused changes in building codes across Florida to make offices, schools, restaurants, hotels and other public and private places more accessible to the disabled. Florida lawmakers have implemented a new law aimed at reducing lawsuits regarding the ADA. The bill received unanimous approval in both the Florida House and Senate during the 2017 legislative session, was recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott and is now in effect.
The new statute enables businesses and property owners to take substantive preventative measures to help to insulate themselves from the most frivolous claims. Under the law, a business or property owner may retain a qualified expert to conduct an inspection of their property. If the property is found to be in compliance with the ADA, the expert may issue a certificate of conformity that includes the date of inspection, proof of the expert’s qualifications, and a statement confirming that the property is in conformity.
For properties that are not found to be in compliance, the owner may develop and submit a remediation plan approved by a qualified expert indicating that the property will be brought into conformity within a specified time period. The plan must detail the proposed remedies for the deficiencies, and it must state when the remediation will be initiated and completed, which must be within 10 years. This extended time frame will enable businesses to control the timing and cost of their remediation measures, as they will be able to implement the changes in conjunction with any planned future renovations or remodeling projects.
The compliance certifications or remediation plans may be filed with the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which will now maintain a publicly accessible website to serve as a registry for all of the certifications and remediation plans that it receives. Importantly, a remediation plan in existence before an ADA lawsuit is filed will typically serve to moot such a suit.