WASHINGTON DC-Builders and apartment owners praised the publication of the first document that translates raw Federal rules about handicapped accessibility into building codes that regulators will accept.

The Code Requirements for Housing Accessibility dictates rules about everything from the placement of thermostats and light switches, to the width of hallways and confined room spaces where wheelchairs may have difficulty turning, to the location of grab bars. The rules cover all buildings with four or more apartments or condominiums. It applies to all units in buildings with elevators and all first-floor units in buildings without elevators.

The absence of clear-cut codes has worried owners, builders and rental management companies since the Fair Housing Act first established the accessibility guidelines for handicapped people in 1988.”The good intentions of many apartment professionals trying to comply with the Fair Housing Act’s requirements have been thwarted because of a lack of clear guidance from HUD,” says Ron Nickson, vice president of building codes for the National Multi Housing Council and National Apartment Association.

Even when owners and builders knew of the rules, they did not know how to comply with the rules because the language of the Federal regulations is much more subjective than building codes, says an NMHC spokesperson.Real estate companies were reluctant to make changes for the sake of compliance, knowing these would be costly renovations that might ultimately be rejected by regulators or in court.

The building code gives owners relief from that fear. HUD has endorsed the rules as a safe harbor, meaning that builders and owners who comply with the CRHA have a legal defense against claims of noncompliance.The document is being published by the International Code Council, and sometimes its code exceeds the FHA rules, the spokesperson says. It also pre-empts a seven-year-long effort by real estate groups to spell out the accessibility rules.

In 1993, two years after the rules took effect, a coalition of real estate groups led by the National Association of Home Builders, NMHC and NAA sought to spell out rules that would comply with HUD regulations. As the effort dragged out, Congress in 1999 urged HUD to expedite its review. Independently, the International Code Council assembled all codes concerning accessibility in a single document and submitted it as a standard for compliance, which HUD adopted.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Once you are an ALM digital member, you’ll receive:

  • Unlimited access to GlobeSt and other free ALM publications
  • Access to 15 years of GlobeSt archives
  • Your choice of GlobeSt digital newsletters and over 70 others from popular sister publications
  • 1 free article* every 30 days across the ALM subscription network
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM events and publications

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?


© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.

GlobeSt. Multifamily Fall 2024Event

Join the industry's top owners, investors, developers, brokers & financiers at THE MULTIFAMILY EVENT OF THE YEAR!

Get More Information


Join GlobeSt

Don't miss crucial news and insights you need to make informed commercial real estate decisions. Join GlobeSt.com now!

  • Free unlimited access to GlobeSt.com's trusted and independent team of experts who provide commercial real estate owners, investors, developers, brokers and finance professionals with comprehensive coverage, analysis and best practices necessary to innovate and build business.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM and GlobeSt events.
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com.

Already have an account? Sign In Now
Join GlobeSt

Copyright © 2024 ALM Global, LLC. All Rights Reserved.