Government Steps Up Enforcement of Accessibility Requirements

There has been an uptick in the government’s efforts to detect and pursue violations of fair housing accessibility requirements. Since January 2009, HUD and its fair housing partners have investigated and either settled or charged 300 cases that alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act’s design and construction requirements. During the same period, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has filed 19 cases alleging failure to design and construct multifamily housing in compliance with fair housing requirements.

For example, in May 2013, the Justice Department announced a settlement with design professionals involved in the design and construction of multifamily housing complexes located in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee. The lawsuit alleged that nine multifamily housing complexes with more than 800 units covered by the FHA’s accessibility requirements were designed and built without required accessible features.

Under the settlement, nine architects and civil engineers will pay a total of $865,000 to make the complexes for which they were responsible accessible to persons with disabilities. They will also pay $60,000 to compensate individuals harmed by the allegedly inaccessible housing. No settlement has been reached with the developer, builder, or former owners of these properties, named in the lawsuit.

The federal Fair Housing Act, which bans disability discrimination, requires multifamily housing built since March 1991 to be designed and constructed so that it’s accessible to persons with disabilities. Failure to comply with the FHA’s design and construction standards is a form of disability discrimination, according to HUD. To make sure you know the accessibility rules, check out the Coach’s August 2013 lesson, which focuses on accessibility requirements in multifamily housing communities.