A CASp Certified Building Gives You a “Special Legal Right”
Steven Schraibman AIA, CPE, CASp
Licensed Architect/General Contractor and Certified Cost Estimator
SEC. 12. Section 1938 is added to the Civil Code
According to Steven Schraibman, the implications of tis civil code have thus far been as follows:
1) All commercial properties have had to undergo a change in that the requirements of this code have needed to be reflected since 7/1/13
2) The inspection has to be carried out by a CASp certified inspector, not just any other party
3) If inspected by a CASp Inspector, the property has to be brought up to compliance with all applicable accessibility standards.
Implications of this can include responsibility falling back to the owner for non-compliance issues and the cost of defending against litigation. In addition to this, if two properties are identical, a prospective tenant who is savvy would likely go with the property that affords him or her the least exposure and the greatest protection. The long term implications seem to be leaning to everything being CASp certified eventually and hence everything being compliant with all applicable accessibility standards.
What is CASp?
CASp is a program that is part of the new and improved “Construction-Related Accessibility Standards Compliance Act”. This program created a new professional title called “Certified Access Specialists” (or CASp). The CASp program was developed to assist business entities with ensuring compliance with disability access codes and standards. To obtain this title, professionals must submit evidence that they meet the extensive experience and knowledge required, prior to taking the State certification exam. After inspection, a property can only receive a CASp Certificate from a CASp CERTIFIED EXPERT.
How Does One Get The Certification Process Started?
Getting the process going is relatively easy and is initiated when you contract with ARCOR and retain us as your professional CASp Inspector. The CASp inspector conducts a comprehensive audit of the business property, followed by the filing of a status report identifying construction related items for correction. The certification issued will read either: “CASp-Inspected” or “CASp determination pending”. The latter suggests that there are still barriers to accessibility that need to be corrected before a final certificate can be issued. See the Top 10 ADA Violations. A comprehensive report is prepared by ARCOR so that guidelines for remediation are carefully outlined and a plan of action for remediation is put in place. ARCOR-Inc, ensures that they partner the client every step of the way in order to bring the property up to code and to ensure that the property is now ADA COMPLIANT. Once corrections have been made, the CASp inspector will issue a final report of compliance with respect to state disability access code requirements. The certificate that is issued by ARCOR-Inc. is a document with its’ own unique number and it is this certificate that grants “special legal rights” to business owners who participate in the CASp program.
Why Should Business Owners Participate in the CASp Program?
It is extremely beneficial for business owners to get their properties CASp Certified. The Construction-Related Accessibility Standards Compliance Act, California Civil Code, Sections 55.51-55.54 went into effect on July of 2009 and was based upon SB-1608. The goal of this law is to educate and facilitate business owners as opposed to imposing punishment. Meeting these requirements is completely voluntary, but the goal is to encourage owners to upgrade their properties and bring them in line with code requirements by giving them “protection” or “special legal rights” against accessibility related lawsuits. It does not matter whether the certification issued is designated as “CASp determination pending” or “CASp-Inspected”, as the “special legal rights” granted go into effect immediately. It is only once all barriers are corrected to the fullest extent possible, that the final certification is issued and reads, “CASp-Inspected”. When businesses are able to display this certificate, their exposure is significantly reduced and they are far less likely to be targeted.
How Exactly Does a CASp Certificate Protect a Business?
If an accessibility related lawsuit is filed against a business with a CASp certificate, the business can apply for a 90 day stay of the lawsuit and a mandatory early evaluation conference (ECC) within 35 days, as they are what is called a “qualified defendant”. The defendant is required to produce the CASp report for the plaintiff review, 15 days prior to ECC. The plaintiff must provide basis of claimed violations and costs 15 days prior to ECC. Qualified businesses may display a CASp issued numbered, watermarked Disability Access Certificate, CASp. It is this that can help reduce potential legal costs which usually occur as a result of the extensive time spent when the plaintiff tries to get a “settlement” award. It also means that you can request an early evaluation conference with a judge or commissioner who has received specialized training in accessibility laws and requirements. The judge or commissioner will review the case and any claimed violations. It is the “special legal rights” that one receives, that reduces the likelihood of a “certified” business being targeted with frivolous lawsuits. Of course this is also a law that aims to ensure that the rights of those with disabilities will be respected and catered for.
Is a CASp Certification a Costly Investment?
The cost of retaining a CASp specialist to audit your property and set up a plan to bring your property up to code, will be a meaningful and comparatively nominal investment in comparison to the costs incurred when owners are sued for ADA compliance violations. The rule should be PREVENTION. In addition to this, a property takes on an additional value in terms of its’ marketability, when it is CASp Certified.