Senior Housing Complex to Pay Up to $380K to Settle Disability Discrimination Claims
A court has approved a settlement resolving allegations that three companies violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against residents and prospects with disabilities at a senior housing apartment complex in Pennsylvania, according to the Justice Department.
The lawsuit alleged that from at least 2005 to the present, the companies created and implemented a series of discriminatory resident occupancy and eligibility policies and practices that discriminated against persons with disabilities. For example, the companies required residents to sign a lease that imposed conditions such as undergoing an initial physical assessment as a requirement of tenancy and facing potential eviction if they developed certain health conditions.
Allegedly, the companies also maintained policies that required residents who use wheelchairs to transfer from their wheelchairs into a dining room chair and required residents who used motorized and nonmotorized wheelchairs to pay a nonrefundable deposit. In addition, the complaint claimed that the companies provided transportation as an amenity and that until 2013, that transportation was inaccessible to people who used wheelchairs, in violation of federal fair housing law.
Under the settlement, the companies agreed to pay a minimum of $250,000 and a maximum of $325,000 into a settlement fund to compensate residents and prospects who were harmed by the alleged policies. The companies also will pay a $55,000 civil penalty to the United States. In addition, the companies agreed to appoint a Fair Housing Act compliance officer at this and other senior living facilities and to implement new resident policies, including a new reasonable accommodation policy and a new motorized wheelchair policy.
“The Fair Housing Act protects the right of individuals with disabilities to enjoy a home to the same extent as everyone else. Common decency, our shared humanity, our nation’s commitment to justice, and our inalienable right to pursue happiness demands no less, and so does the law. Discriminating against people with disabilities is wrong and illegal, and the Justice Department will vigorously continue to enforce the Fair Housing Act to combat this unlawful conduct and obtain relief for its victims,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “This consent order will ensure that all prospective and current residents at [this] and other senior living facilities are treated equally and that victims of past discrimination receive compensation for the harms they have suffered.”