For the past several years, select attorneys have made it rich on the backs of the public and specifically children trying to earn their constitutional right to an education. Small restaurant owners were not immune from these extortion tactics either.
The ADA Demand Letter
This letter requesting money for ADA violations was known as a demand letter. The letter would basically state “pay me now or pay me more later”. Schools and small business owners would get scared and end up paying the attorneys whatever they asked for. And that’s a problem. A single letter would force business owners and schools into handing over $25,000 for a small construction error that could be easily fixed.
One Inch Off
One of the biggest things that the attorneys looked for were parking stall violations. Your ADA space could be an inch off and the attorneys would swoop in and starting sending these demand letters. This finally got the attention of California legislators and in 2012 they passed SB1186 which finally put a stop to these frivolous demand letters.
The letters won’t stop, but they are dramatically different. They now require attorneys to include their ABA Number. Simple, but effective because that ABA Number makes it easier for you to file complaints to the Bar about the dirty tactics these attorneys use.
Also, the ADA demand letter can not demand MONEY. It must inform you of your rights to abate the hazard.
It must also state in plain language what the violation is and how it impeded the full and equal access of the user.
SEC. 4. Section 55.31 is added to the Civil Code, to read: 55.31. (a) Commencing January 1, 2013, a demand letter alleging a construction-related accessibility claim, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 55.3, shall state facts sufficient to allow a reasonable person to identify the basis of the violation or violations supporting the claim, including all of the following: (1) A plain language explanation of the specific access barrier or barriers the individual encountered, or by which the individual alleges he or she was deterred, with sufficient information about the location of the barrier to enable a reasonable person to identify the access barrier. (2) The way in which the barrier encountered interfered with the individual's full and equal use or access, or in which it deterred the individual, on each particular occasion. (3) The date or dates of each particular occasion on which the individual encountered the specific access barrier, or on which he or she was deterred. (b) A demand letter may offer prelitigation settlement negotiations, but shall not include a request or demand for money or an offer or agreement to accept money. (1) With respect to potential monetary damages for an alleged construction-related accessibility claim or claims, a demand letter shall not state any specific potential monetary liability for any asserted claim or claims, and may only state: "The property owner or tenant, or both, may be civilly liable for actual and statutory damages for a violation of a construction-related accessibility requirement." (2) Notwithstanding any other law, a demand letter meeting the requirements of this section shall be deemed to satisfy the requirements for prelitigation notice of a potential claim when prelitigation notice is required by statute or common law for an award of attorney's fees.
The letters won’t stop, but this new legislation will provide some relief from being taunted and pressed into paying money you don’t need to. It also reduces the overall liability to facility owners.
As a preventive step, building owners should conduct audits of their facilities and put together their ADA Transition plans which outline how they will handle facility upgrades, make required changes and the like.