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WA No Disabled Access to Old Commercial Property - Discrimination?

Discussion in 'Commercial Law Forum' started by KimS, 7 September 2014.

  1. KimS

    KimS Member

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    Hi,

    I am currently looking into commercial properties as I am expanding my business. I have found a great premises with everything I need, however it is on the first floor of the building and does not have disabled access or disabled amenities. I run wellness and confidence programs for teen girls and the last tenants ran a gym and have now moved downstairs to a larger area. The premises I am looking at is already approved through council as a recreational facility so I don't need to get council approval for my business if we choose to sign the commercial lease.

    My questions is, where do I stand with the disabled access under commercial law? Do I have to have disabled access? Does the landlord have to put disabled access in? Can I be liable for discrimination if I take on the lease and there is no disabled access. I have contacted several business and disability service to obtain information but no one has been able to help me. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.
     
  2. lawanswers

    lawanswers Moderator
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  3. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Hi KimS,

    Speak with your council to get a better idea of whether or not disabled access/facilities are required. I suspect you may need to given this is a place of business. However, given that this is an old building, requirements for disabled access will vary according to how difficult it would be alter the structure of the property, the costs involved, the business you seek to run, the age of the building, amongst other factors.
     
  4. KimS

    KimS Member

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    Thank you for your reply. I will go back to council. The last time I spoke with them they said if the 'terms of use' does not need to be changed (which it doesn't) then disabled access does not need to be added.
    Thank you again,

    Kim
     
  5. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Hi Kim,

    Maybe that is the case. Again, it really is up to the individual council. Difference councils have different requirements/stringency for planning/building requirements.

    If the council says you will not need to alter the structure for disabled access because the purpose/use of the building has not changed, then make sure you get this in writing, either confirmed via email or have them send you a letter. Also, get down the council employee's name and details. Councils may change employees and lose notes, so it is important you take active measures to keep everything documented in case council later tries to enforce.
     
  6. AnnaLJ

    AnnaLJ Well-Known Member

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    Hi KimS

    I would recommend negotiating with the landlord to have a term inserted into the letter of offer/disclosure statement (or other document you sign prior to the lease being drafted) that states that at handover, the landlord must ensure the premises is compliant with the disability regulations/legislation in WA.

    The legislation may have changed since the start of previous lease, so this clause may give rise to additional works required by the landlord.

    Generally, if you carry out works over a certain value that necessitate obtaining a council permit this will evoke the legislation and require you to ensure the premises are compliant. This can be an incredibly costly process, as it will require there being bathrooms located on ground level, and will require the entrance to the building to either be level or ramped in.

    I have heard of cases where a tenant has put together a management plan and presented it to council stating the tenant does not currently employ any disabled people but if it were to then it would, for example, install disabled toilets on the ground level of the site. This of course would only cover you in relation to employee-only areas of the site.

    Best of luck and let us know how you go.

    Anna
     

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