Fair Housing vs. Unfair Housing

Do you know the difference?

Knowing the difference between fair housing and unfair housing isn't as obvious as you might think. This blog aims to present a variety of important and interesting fair housing issues.

If you're an apartment professional, avoid costly mistakes by reading the stories of others who — even with good intentions — learned compliance lessons the hard way. (For the easy way, click here.)

If you live in an apartment, get familiar with your rights when it comes to housing discrimination, as well as your options for seeking justice.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

LANDMARK: Reasonable Accommodation Denial Leads to Record Settlement

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Monday that it has obtained the largest-ever settlement in connection with an individual housing discrimination case. The $1.25 million agreement with an Alabama property management company stems from a tenant's request for a reasonable accommodation, which the company allegedly denied.

What's interesting about this case is how a single denial of an accommodation request could wind up costing a management company so dearly. The reason? The tenant allegedly suffered severe damages as a direct result of the denial.

According to the first amended complaint filed March 17, 2009, the tenant requested to rent a ground-floor apartment in the 196-unit Mobile, Alabama non-elevator building to accommodate a physical disability. Although he needed to use full-length leg braces and crutches on account of paraplegia, he was offered an apartment on the second floor with the understanding that he would soon be transferred to a ground-floor unit. In the meantime, the apartment's small size meant the tenant had to keep his physical therapy equipment in storage on the ground floor.

Despite several follow-up requests and apparent promises, the company didn't allow the tenant to transfer to the ground floor, at one point citing a new rule barring all transfers, according to the complaint.

In November 2007, the tenant fell down the stairs from his second-floor apartment, requiring surgery and the need for a wheelchair.

Without admitting liability or wrongdoing, the company agreed Monday to pay $1,195,000 in monetary damages to the tenant, plus $55,000 in fees and costs to the federal government for the alleged Fair Housing Act violation based on disability.

In addition to the record monetary award and penalty, the consent decree requires the company to obtain fair housing training for employees and monitor their compliance, maintain non-discriminatory practices and procedures, and appoint an employee as "Reasonable Accommodation Facilitator," charged with managing all new requests at the more than 11,000 units in 85 properties across 15 states that the company manages.

Given the facts, do you think this settlement is fair? Do you believe landlords and property management companies need to become more aware of how the law protects people with disabilities?

What do you think?


Unknown said...

I think this amount would never had been awarded if the violation had been made by a public housing manager. HUD TENDS TO LIMIT the amount of awards in cases involving a public housing complex, because as I was told by HUD investigators, "They get their funds from us"

Unknown said...

I tried nothing happened.

April B said...

How do I find a lawyer in San Francisco to deal with this type of issue?