Reasonable Accommodation Enforcement Action in the News

This blog post is by Elizabeth Nowrouz.

According to the Justice Department, a $1.2 million agreement has been reached in a case against an Alabama property management company accused of violating the Fair Housing Act.  The lawsuit alleged that the defendants did not allow a tenant with a mobility impairment to move into a ground floor apartment in his complex. The tenant later suffered severe injuries when he fell down the stairs.

Warren Properties Inc., Warren Village Limited Partnership and Frank R. Warren settled the suit, which was the largest settlement to be obtained for an individual case dealing with housing discrimination.

The terms of the settlement state that the defendants must pay $1.95 million to the tenant, as well as $55,000 in court fees and costs to the government. They also must hire a “reasonable accommodations facilitator” to deal with requests for such accommodations in any of the 85 properties managed by Warren Properties, Inc., which amounts to over 11,000 units.  Reasonable accommodations in housing, according to the Fair Housing Act, are changes to “rules, policies, practices or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford…persons [with disabilities] equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”[1] Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act also specifies the allowance of reasonable modifications to structural aspects of units or public and common areas.

This lawsuit came about as a result of a complaint filed by the tenant to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. After an investigation of the complaint, HUD charged the defendants with discrimination and chose to have the matter heard in federal court.

In the release, the Justice Department stated that fighting illegal housing discrimination is one of its top priorities.

The Texas Tenant Advisor, a website of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, provides information on the Federal Fair Housing Act, including what is covered by the law, and the steps necessary to filing a complaint with HUD as well as the complaint form itself.  The website also links to the HUD site on housing discrimination and is located under “Discrimination” in the “Know Your Rights” section.

Links:

http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/December/10-crt-1482.html

http://www.texastenant.org/

(h/t TCDD)