Alabama Community to Pay $1.25 Million to Settle Disability Discrimination Case
January 2011: Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a $1.25 million settlement with the owner and managers of a 196-unit Alabama community to resolve allegations that it violated fair housing law by refusing to grant a resident’s requests for a reasonable accommodation. The settlement is the largest ever obtained by the department in an individual housing discrimination case, according to federal officials.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a resident, who allegedly had a mobility impairment and relied on leg braces and crutches to get around. The complaint alleged that the community refused the resident’s repeated requests to transfer him from his second-floor unit to a ground-floor unit near the front of the building. As a result, according to the complaint, the resident fell down the stairs and suffered severe injuries that increased the severity of his disability and eventually forced him to move out of the development.
The owner, which denied liability, agreed to settle the case by paying the resident $1.195 million and an additional $55,000 in fees and costs to the government. In addition, the owner agreed to hire a reasonable accommodation facilitator to handle requests for reasonable accommodations from more than 11,000 housing units in 85 properties managed by the company in 15 states. The defendants also must attend fair housing training, implement a nondiscrimination policy, and comply with notice, monitoring, and reporting requirements.
“Property owners and managers have no excuse for violating our nation’s fair housing laws by refusing to accommodate people with disabilities,” Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “Equal access to housing in the United States is a fundamental right, and this nation will not tolerate discrimination in housing.”
“Persons with disabilities have a right to the reasonable accommodations they need to function and live as others do,” added John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Denying them that right violates the Fair Housing Act, and HUD and the Department of Justice are committed to ensuring that property owners meet their responsibility to comply with the law.”
Source: U.S. Department of Justice