Ohio Firms Charged with Discriminating Against Residents with Disabilities
HUD recently charged two Ohio corporations with housing discrimination for failing to satisfy fair housing accessibility requirements in the design and construction of 32 multifamily housing communities throughout Ohio.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires that multifamily housing built after March 1991 contain accessible features for people with disabilities. Requirements include accessible common areas, bathrooms, and kitchens, as well as wider doors and environmental controls that can be reached by residents who use wheelchairs. HUD says that failure to include these features is unlawful and makes the property difficult or impossible to use by people with disabilities.
HUD’s charge resulted from complaints by the Fair Housing Advocates Association (FHAA), an Ohio-based fair housing organization, and HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. FHAA first filed a complaint with HUD alleging that five of the communities in Ohio had numerous inaccessible features in violation of FHA requirements. After its investigation identified additional properties built by the companies or their affiliates, HUD filed its own complaint alleging that a total of 32 communities were inaccessible.
According to the charge, the companies allegedly discriminated against persons with disabilities because the properties lacked safe and accessible routes that persons with disabilities and others can use to travel between their homes and common areas, including mailboxes, the clubhouse, and the pool.
The charge will be heard by a U.S. administrative law judge unless any party elects for the case to be heard in federal court.
"It can be very difficult for persons with disabilities to live in housing that does not meet the Fair Housing Act’s design and construction requirements," Anna María Farías, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. "If, for example, a unit has stairs at its entry, that unit is effectively unavailable to a person who uses a wheelchair; it’s as if the property has a sign saying, ‘no wheelchairs allowed.’"