Any business owner needs to be aware of potential liability and risk, both related to customers on site as well as employees.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is one law that self storage owners need to be intimately familiar with in order to avoid liability and risk.
Are you aware of what's included in the ADA update?
More importantly, are you certain your site is fully compliant?
Here's a look at ADA regulations relevant to self storage owners, as well as tips for limiting risk and liability.
Specific ADA Requirements for Self Storage Businesses
As of March 15, 2012, the ADA required self storage businesses to comply with several specific regulations. Here's a look at those regulations:
- 5% of the first 200 units of any self storage business must be wheelchair accessible.
- 2% of all units beyond 200 must also be wheelchair accessible.
- Wheelchair-accessible units must be available in the different unit types a business offers.
- If a wheelchair-accessible unit is needed by a non-disabled renter, the business does not have to hold it.
The ADA also outlines larger restroom turning spaces to accommodate wheelchairs, new workspace requirements for disabled employees, as well as new reach ranges.
At first glance, this may seem like a lot to comply with.
But the self storage industry is by nature in a good position to quickly meet ADA regulations.
Storage facilities typically already have wide hallways and spacious rooms given that they are used to move large and heavy storage loads.
Still, it's always a good idea to look at the letter of the law and ensure that your business is in full compliance so that it can avoid liability.
What You Risk by Non-Compliance
What happens when a self storage business fails to comply with ADA regulations? The greatest risks are lawsuits brought under Title 3 of the law.
Disabled customers and employees can choose to bring private lawsuits against owners and operators if they perceive a business to be out of compliance with the ADA.
This isn't just theoretical risk, though. In fact, some people are taking advantage of the ADA to file what are called "drive-by lawsuits."
In a drive-by lawsuit, someone simply drives by a business (or uses Google Maps to examine a business) in search of ADA violations.
Then, without being an actual customer or employee, that individual files a lawsuit under Title 3 of the Act.
Drive-by lawsuits sound frivolous, and there are indications that courts are acting to prevent them.
But these types of suits should serve as motivation for all storage facilities to address ADA requirements sooner rather than later.
The Two Most Urgent ADA-Related Risks
When you fail to comply with ADA regulations, you're facing two very different types of risk.
First, you face monetary risk.
If a lawsuit against you under Title 3 of the ADA ends up in court, you could face a decision that will cost your business serious money.
These suits can come from customers or employees, or even possibly from a drive-by activist looking to score a decision against you.
That's money you don't want to spend, even if you think insurance would step in and help.
The second risk is less obvious but just as important to the long-term viability of your business: the risk to brand reputation.
If you do get sued under Title 9 of the ADA, it's possible news of the suit will find its way onto the Internet where prospective customers will see it — or even into local media.
The last thing you want when prospects are searching for self storage is to associate your business with discrimination against the disabled.
The cost of compliance with ADA regulations may represent money you don't want to spend.
But that money is a pittance compared to what you can lose through a lawsuit or damage to your brand reputation.
Focus on What Matters Most
At StoragePug, we understand how competitive the self storage industry can be and how complicated an owner's job can be.
That's why we offer a series of products and services to help you create an online presence that is constantly funneling customers your way.
Get in touch to learn more about our web development, rental software, and SEO solutions designed specifically for self storage facility owners.
To read more about my favorite StoragePug features, take a look at:
- Self Storage Marketing Playbook [Free eBook]
- Self Storage Websites that are Fast, Modern, and StoragePug-Managed
- Self Storage Websites: 8 Ways to Convert Leads