Since January 2008, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has notified several of the New York City's top landlords and their architects that some of their buildings aren't accessible to people with disabilities, in violation of the Fair Housing Act's (FHA) design and construction requirements, according to reporting on August 18, 2008 by The New York Times. The FHA's requirements generally apply to multifamily buildings that were designed and constructed "for first occupancy" after March 13, 1991. (See Section 3604(f)(3)(C) of the FHA and its relevant regulations, 24 CFR 100.205.) They require, for example, usable doors (by a person in a wheelchair), bathroom walls that are reinforced for the possible later installation of grab bars, and an accessible route into and through each apartment.
The landlords argue that they have been complying with the FHA through their successful compliance with Local Law 58, a city accessibilty law that took effect in 1988. They fear that lawsuits could require them to undergo a costly retrofitting of their buildings, which could involve some 100,000 apartments and a pricetag in the tens of millions of dollars.
The DOJ, however, claims that compliance with the FHA isn't the same as compliance with Local Law 58, which isn't listed as a safe harbor for FHA compliance.
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