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Under Colorado and federal law do i have to provide my tenants with an elevator for an apartment building?

Denver, CO |

our elevator recently went out in our building and we have tenants complaining as if there werent stairs to walk on. we had our guy look at it and its going to be 30 grand to fix it. we have been considering closing it off. we have no disabled people living here that have wheelchairs or anything of that nature not even anyone with a cane. it is a four story building with two sets of stairs from either side up to the roof.

and i am fully aware that if i had a disabled person living in the top floor with my elevator out i would have to accomadate them as quickly as possible. we just have a couple that like to bring friends with stilettos and they dont want to walk the stairs because their feet hurt. we abide by every code were under state law i just want to make sure were under code. i dont want to get sued. thanks for any help

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Attorney answers 2


With a commercial property and multiple tenants the stakes get raised very quickly. Presumptively your lease agreement does not state that your agree to provide an elevator. The issue that you face is no only related to tenants but what about guests of tenants or someone else visiting the building, what if one of your tenants has a heart condition that you are unaware of, or a potential tenant? I suspect that this is where you will run into difficulty.
I'd say your under no obligation to immediately have the elevator fixed but you should be aware that this raises your risk of lawsuit and thus, you should have the elevator repaired as soon as possible.

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I think you are likely to have issues. The tennants rented from you at a time when there was a working elevator providing access to their property. There is a very strong argument that the tannants reasonably relied upon the availability of this feature when they rented from you (especially those who rented on the 4th Floor). They may not have agreed to pay the same rent for a 4th floor walk-up as they would a 4th floor apartment with elevator access.

I suspect that if you intend to shut down the elevator and save the cost of repairing it that you need to be prepared to renegotiate your leases (especially the upper floors). Unless you disclosed when the leases were signed that you may shut off the elevator in the future, your tennants may justifiably state that they would not have leased the space they did at the rates they agreed to pay if they had been provided with that information.

ADA issues are a wholely separate matter which you also need to consider, but your first order of business is to determine how you will replace your current tennants. Many of your tennants will likely justifiably terminate their current leases and move somewhere else and rerenting an apartment where all of the tennants property will have to be moved up four flights of stairs may be more of a challenge than you anticipate.

You can reach Harkess & Salter LLC at (303) 531-5380 or Stephen Harkess is an attorney licensed in the state and federal courts of Colorado. This answer is for general information only and does not create an attorney client relationship between Stephen Harkess or Harkess & Salter LLC and any person. You should schedule a consultation with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your legal issues.