California Landlords Accused of Denying Request to Install Grab Bars

The owners and operators of an assisted senior housing community in California recently agreed to settle a HUD complaint alleging that they violated the Fair Housing Act and other laws when they refused to install grab bars in the showers of elderly tenants with disabilities and subsequently retaliated against them for making the requests.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from denying or limiting housing to persons with disabilities, including retaliating against individuals who make accommodation requests. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, including refusing to make reasonable accommodations. In addition, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all activities, services, and programs of public entities.

The case came to HUD’s attention when a married couple with disabilities who live in a HUD-subsidized senior apartment complex filed a complaint alleging that the owner and property manager of the complex refused to install grab bars in their bathroom and subsequently retaliated against them for making the request. Specifically, the couple claimed that after they asked for the accommodation, they were issued a notice accusing them of having created a noise disturbance. The housing providers denied discriminating against the couple but agreed to settle their complaint.

Under the settlement agreement, the community agreed to pay $23,228 to the couple and their attorneys. The community also agreed to notify all residents at the property that it will install grab bars in their bathrooms at no cost, and to provide fair housing training to leasing and management staff.

“The smallest accommodations mean a lot to individuals with disabilities,” Anna María Farías, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. “We welcome today’s settlement and hope that it reminds housing providers everywhere of the importance of meeting their obligation to comply with the nation’s fair housing laws.”