FHA and ADA Compliance Peer Review
A peer review approach can identify FHA and ADA compliance issues, helping to avoid costly litigation.
A professional peer review can provide valuable input to your project with relatively minimal overall cost. Both public entities and private companies may benefit. A peer reviewer can initially explain accessibility laws to help owners, designers, and builders understand risk and exposure.
PEER REVIEW PROCESS
Plan reviews typically include overall design assessments with respect to the FHA and ADA and local and state accessibility codes. A good consultant will advise on information that could be added to contract documents to better explain accessibility requirements and design intent to the contractor. He/she may also provide design input to help resolve any observed deficiencies. Peer review may also include review of project specifications and product submittals to ensure compliance of various specified manufactured products.
Plan reviews typically include overall design assessments with respect to the FHA and ADA and local and state accessibility codes. A good consultant will advise on information that could be added to contract documents. These details aim to better explain accessibility requirements and design intent to the contractor responsible for building the project. The peer reviewer may provide design input to help resolve any observed deficiencies. Assessment of project specifications and product submittals also may be part of the peer review process. This step helps to ensure compliance of various specified manufactured products.
Site inspections confirm that the information shown on the contract documents is being accurately built by the contractor.
When dealing with accessibility issues, some dimensions are absolute and leave little room for adjustments in the field. Tolerances are of utmost importance. Minor changes made during the construction process can result in noncompliant elements. Such alterations can have a ripple effect on the entire construction process, so they are to be avoided.
Field observers can identify problems early when it is relatively easy to make changes with minimal cost. Observers can also identify change orders and substitutions made along the way that may impact the project’s compliance.
PEER REVIEW BENEFITS
- A proactive peer review survey is preferable to an official ‘inspector’s’ report that may trigger litigation.
- It is more cost effective and less disruptive to make necessary changes as the result of architectural plan and construction reviews. Correcting violations discovered by an ‘inspector’ after a project is complete and occupied incurs added costs in dollars and inconvenience.
- At an owner’s request, a peer reviewer may be willing to submit a statement of compliance. This document affirms that the property was designed and built to comply with FHA or ADA accessibility requirements. This step may not protect owners from a lawsuit down the line. However, advocacy groups have acknowledged this proactive approach is a major step in the right direction.
- Accessibility lawsuits generally focus on persons who own, design, and build projects. However, peer review can benefit purchasers and sellers who are also at potential risk.
Lending institutions often want to know up front about any potential liabilities. These could include remediation to a property should compliance deficiencies be identified in the future. Peer review can expose such accessibility issues.
Developers, architects, and contractors recognize that hiring a peer reviewer is a wise investment. Engaging a professional at the earliest stages of development can help minimize legal and financial exposure associated with accessibility complaints down the road.