The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International has asked the Justice Department to exempt existing facilities from having to comply with proposed changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines.

BOMA asked the Justice Department to allow a broad grandfather clause to protect existing buildings that already comply with the current law’s guidelines. The Washington-based owners and managers organization submitted lengthy comments on the proposed modifications with its request, and pointed out the high cost of making the changes to existing buildings.

The U.S. Access Board proposed the guideline changes to the disabilities law after considering the revisions for several years.

“Without a broad grandfather clause, the Department of Justice would be ignoring the extensive initial costs and efforts that have gone into implementation of previous ADA requirements in existing facilities,” said BOMA chair and chief elected officer Richard D. Purtell in a statement. Purtell is also portfolio manager for national real estate firm Grubb & Ellis Management Services. “The proposed amendments also contain areas where additional clarity is needed and the Final Rules should not be rushed until they are fully vetted,” Purtell said.

The owners and managers organization has suggested several additions and deletions relating to accessibility and potentially affecting stairs, elevators, new construction, water closet clearance and door hardware.

It is committed, BOMA says, to ensuring that future versions of the guidelines reflect the state of the art of accessibility, provide for a high degree of design flexibility, and are written clearly in understandable and enforceable language.

While commending the Justice Department for including broad “safe harbor” clauses for existing buildings in compliance with current standards for barrier removal and path of travel obligations, BOMA urged the inclusion of safe harbor clauses in the final rules so that existing facilities that comply with current guidelines for people with disabilities do not have to undergo extensive upgrades to comply with the revised standards.

BOMA International is a federation of more than 100 local associations and groups. Its more than 17,000 members own or manage more than 9 billion sq. ft. of commercial properties.