Owners/Developers of 82 Complexes in 13 States Accused of Discrimination
The Justice Department recently announced that it has filed a fair housing case against an Ohio-based company and its affiliates, which owned, developed, and built 82 multifamily housing complexes in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants failed to design and construct housing units and related facilities to make them accessible to persons with disabilities in compliance with the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The 82 complexes contain more than 3,000 units that are required by the FHA to have accessible features, and most contain public spaces that are required to comply with the ADA. According to the government’s complaint, the defendants built many of the complexes with the assistance of federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits or with the financial assistance of other federal government programs.
The FHA prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex and familial status. Among other things, it requires all multifamily housing constructed after March 13, 1991, to have basic accessibility features, including accessible routes without steps or steep slopes to all ground-floor units. Enacted in 1990, the ADA requires, among other things, that places of public accommodation—such as rental offices—at multifamily housing complexes designed and constructed for first occupancy after Jan. 26, 1993, be accessible to persons with disabilities.
The lawsuit alleges that the 82 properties have significant accessibility barriers, including steps leading to building entrances; nonexistent or excessively sloped pedestrian routes from apartment units to site amenities (such as picnic areas, Dumpsters, clubhouse/leasing offices); inaccessible parking; inaccessible bathrooms and kitchens; inaccessible door hardware; and insufficient maneuvering space at unit entrances and entrances to common use areas that make those entrances inaccessible to many people with disabilities. The complaint contains allegations of unlawful conduct; the allegations must be proven in court.
“For over two decades federal laws have required multifamily housing complexes to be built with accessible features,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in a statement. “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the rights of persons with disabilities to equal access to housing opportunities, including accessible dwellings and related facilities.”