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Justice Department Settles Disability-Based Housing Discrimination Lawsuit with Owners and Developers of 71 Apartment Complexes in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee
March 8, 2016
Source: U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
The Justice Department announced today [March 8, 2016] that the owners and developers of 71 multi-family housing complexes in four states [Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee] with more than 2,500 ground-floor units have agreed to pay $350,000 to settle claims that they violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by building apartment complexes that were inaccessible to persons with disabilities. As part of the settlement, the companies also agreed to make substantial retrofits to remove accessibility barriers.
Under the terms of the agreement, which was approved today by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Alabama-based developers Allan Rappuhn, Gateway Construction Corporation, Gateway Development Corporation and other affiliated companies must take extensive actions to make the complexes accessible to persons with disabilities. These corrective actions include replacing excessively sloped portions of sidewalks, installing properly sloped curb walkways to allow persons with disabilities to access units from sidewalks and parking areas, replacing cabinets in bathrooms to provide sufficient room for wheelchair users and removing accessibility barriers in public and common use areas at the complexes. The defendants will pay $300,000 to establish a settlement fund for the purpose of compensating individuals with disabilities who have been impacted by the accessibility violations and $50,000 as a civil penalty.
“Our country prohibits discrimination because of an individuals disability, and our laws guarantee all people the right to access housing of their choice,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Departments Civil Rights Division. “We will continue aggressively enforcing the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that residential multi-family housing is built with the required accessible features.”
“Because of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons with disabilities, like all Americans, have the right to live in housing free of discrimination” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance of the Northern District of Alabama. “My office remains committed to aggressively protecting the housing and other rights of individuals with disabilities.”
The agreement also requires the defendants to receive training about the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that all future multifamily housing construction complies with these laws and to provide periodic reports to the Justice Department.
Those who are entitled to share in the settlement fund will be identified through a process established in the settlement. Persons who believe they may have been harmed by the inaccessible conditions at any of these properties, either when they or someone associated with them lived there or considered living there, should contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743 mailbox #2, or e-mail the Justice Department at email@example.com
The 71 complexes at issue, 69 of which were built with financial assistance from the federal governments Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program or other federal programs, are:
[See the Justice Department press release (3/8/16) for a complete list of the 71 housing complexes at https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-settles-disability-based-housing-discrimination-lawsuit-owners-and]
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex and familial status. Among other things, the Fair Housing Act requires all multifamily housing constructed after March 13, 1991, to have basic accessibility features, including accessible routes without steps to all ground floor units, and units accessible to wheelchair users and others with disabilities. Enacted in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires, among other things, that places of public accommodation, such as rental offices at multifamily housing complexes designed and constructed for first occupancy after January 26, 1993, be accessible to persons with disabilities.
Fair housing enforcement is a priority of the Civil Rights Division. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.justice.gov/crt.
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