U.S. hotels that have not yet installed pool and spa lifts or sloped entries for disabled guests under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may soon face prosecution from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Although imposition of the requirement was delayed last year, all indications are that the DOJ will not change its position that the pool lift requirement will be enforced on January 31, 2013. There are expected to be no further grace periods and no waivers.

Pool lifts must be “fixed” to the extent readily achievable. Guests must be able to use the lifts independently, without assistance from hotel staff. Hotels must meet the following requirements:

      • There must be at least one accessible means of entry, either a pool lift or sloped entry.
      • The pool lift must be in position and ready for use during all hours the pool is open.
      • Each pool or spa must have a separate means of entry. (Special rules apply for clusters of spas.)
      • Unless it is not readily achievable, pool lifts must be attached to the pool deck or apron in some manner.

The cost to owners can range from about $4,000 to $15,000 for the purchase and installation of a lift and can cost even more for building a sloped entry.

There is an opt-out for hotels that can show that making a pool or spa ADA-accessible is not “readily achievable,” because of either technical or cost considerations. However, taking this route could involve litigation, as exactly what would make installing a lift or sloped entry at a pool or spa not readily achievable has not been defined by the DOJ.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) is encouraging its members to comply with the new regulations. AH&LA has noted that the DOJ will not pursue enforcement of the fixed lift requirements against those hotels that purchased otherwise-compliant portable lifts before March 15, 2012, so long as the lifts are kept in position for use at the pool and operational during all times the pool is open to guests. In addition, it appears that property owners who purchased portable lifts before March 15, 2012, will be exempt from the requirement to conduct an ongoing analysis regarding whether a fixed lift is readily achievable.

One insurance broker for the hospitality industry is encouraging hotels that do not have a pool lift installed to close their pools. If your pool is closed, then a lift is not required until the pool is again opened to guests.

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MCB has over 35 years of hospitality accounting experience providing audit, tax, due diligence, and employee benefit plan audit services. Contact MCB at 703.218.3600 to discuss your hotel accounting and tax needs or to receive a proposal for your next financial statement audit.

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