DOJ Gets Record $10.5M Settlement in Housing Discrimination Case
Earlier this summer, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced its largest-ever disability-based housing discrimination settlement, which resolves allegations that a Texas-based developer and affiliated entities discriminated on the basis of disability in the design and construction of multifamily housing complexes throughout the United States. The complaint alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act’s (FHA’s) design and construction standards and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The lawsuit dates back to March 2009, after a DOJ investigation found accessibility barriers at various properties. Since 1991, the developer and its affiliates built 210 multifamily properties in 26 states and the District of Columbia.
Shortly before the trial involving 32 properties, the parties reached a settlement, requiring the developers to pay $10.25 million to establish an accessibility fund to increase the stock of accessible housing in the communities where their properties are located, including providing retrofits at their properties. In addition, the developers must pay a $250,000 civil penalty. The developers have since left the multifamily development and construction business, but if they reenter the business, the settlement requires them to design and construct covered multifamily dwellings to fully comply with FHA and ADA requirements.
“Today’s historic settlement demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the fair housing rights of persons with disabilities,” Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “Builders of multifamily housing must consider accessibility at the outset, or they risk significantly greater expense to retrofit properties. As a result of this settlement, multifamily housing complexes will be retrofitted to comply with the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and persons with physical disabilities will be afforded an equal opportunity to live in and visit these properties.”