Commission for the Disabled on Schlumberger leases: Town has access responsibilities

Don Ciota, chairman of the Commission for the Disabled, sent a letter to First Selectman Rudy Marconi Wednesday, Feb. 22, outlining the town’s responsibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act when leasing town property.

The town is preparing to lease two buildings part of the former Schlumberger property to ACT of Connecticut and BassamFellows.

In the letter, Ciota said that  ADA compliance for a leased facility is the responsibility of both the tenant and property owner (in this case the town).  

“The responsibility may be allocated by the lease, but courts have no responsibility to enforce lease terms in ADA litigation,” he told Marconi. “In addition to areas leased to the tenants, the Landlord (town) is responsible to provide accesses to the property, and an accessible path of travel to areas of the building governed by the Act.”

Ciota said that when alterations are made to areas of a building where the public has access, or improvements are made to private space — such as a tenant improvement project — the bar for readily achievable improvements is raised.

The Commission for the Disabled (CfD) interprets this as meaning improvements to the property by the tenants may necessitate further improvements to the site at the town’s expense, according to Ciota’s letter.

He outline the following are recommendations for the Board of Selectmen to consider in this matter:

  • All contracts, leases, etc. should specify the tenant(s), in return for valuable consideration by the town, agrees to achieve ADA compliance within the leased space and paths of access to the leased space.
  • The tenant(s) will hire qualified architects and or engineers to plan and design any and all improvements to insure ADA compliance.
  • The tenant(s) agree to defend and indemnify the town in the event of an ADA related lawsuit.

“In closing please note the CfD intends to include this property on the list for the town-wide self assessment,” Ciota said.