Texas Developer Settles Disability-Based Housing Discrimination Case

A multifamily housing developer and a site engineer have agreed to settle a federal lawsuit alleging that they built an eight-building addition and associated rental office at an apartment complex in Galveston, Texas, which were inaccessible to individuals with disabilities.

Specifically, the complaint alleged that the defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against people with disabilities by failing to design and construct multifamily dwellings at the community with features of accessible and adaptable design and construction required by the violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The complaint also alleged that the developer designed and built places of public accommodation, including the rental office for multifamily dwellings located at the complex, without ensuring that they were readily accessible to people with disabilities as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Among other things, the FHA requires all multifamily housing constructed after March 12, 1991, to have basic accessibility features, including accessible routes without steps to all ground-floor units. 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.

Pending court approval, the settlement requires the developer to take corrective actions such as removing steps, replacing steeply sloped walkways, and adding accessible parking to make public and common use portions of the property accessible to persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users. They must also construct a new apartment building with 24 accessible units, as well as a new accessible rental office, and establish a $75,000 settlement fund for people allegedly harmed by the lack of accessible features at the community. The settlement also requires the developer and engineer to obtain training on the requirements of the FHA and ADA and ensure that any future housing that they design or construct complies with FHA and ADA requirements.

“The Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act require that new multifamily housing be accessible to persons with disabilities,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “This lawsuit and its resolution help ensure that individuals with disabilities and their families live with dignity and enjoy equal housing and all other opportunities available to the people of the United States.”