Fair Housing Lawsuit Settled for $130,000 + Retrofitting costs

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scalesHere is another example of a recent settlement of a Fair Housing Act lawsuit brought by the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”). I try to post case summaries in order to provide timely updates to real estate agents and brokers about the "dos and don'ts" under the Fair Housing Act, since fair housing is such an important issue.

Yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, May 20, 2009), the DOJ settled a Fair Housing Act lawsuit that was brought against the developers, architects, and professional engineers responsible for building four multifamily housing complexes in Spokane, Washington. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants designed and built the complexes in violation of the Fair Housing Act by failing to make the complexes accessible to wheelchair users and other persons with physical disabilities.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants each designed portions of one or more of the complexes without including required accessibility features in the designs. Since 1989, federal law has required that new multifamily housing contain certain features to make it accessible to and usable by wheelchair users and other persons with physical disabilities.

Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants will pay all costs related to making the apartment complexes accessible to persons with disabilities and will pay $120,000 to compensate individuals harmed by the inaccessible housing. The developer will pay a $10,000 civil penalty to vindicate the public interest and most of the defendants will undergo training on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.

The retrofitting includes modifying walkways to eliminate excess slopes and level changes, providing accessible curb ramps, and parking and routes to site amenities, such as clubhouses, pools, mailboxes and trash facilities. The settlement also provides for the replacement of inaccessible knob door hardware with levers, the widening of inaccessible doorways, and the reconfiguration of bathrooms and kitchens to accommodate persons who use wheelchairs.

As all real estate professionals should already know, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Among other things, the Act requires that new multifamily housing development be designed and constructed with basic accessibility features, including accessible common and public use areas, accessible routes to and through apartments, doors wide enough for wheelchair users, kitchens and bathrooms with sufficient maneuvering space for wheelchair users, outlets and environmental controls in accessible locations and bathrooms with reinforcements for grab bars.


To learn more about fair housing issues (and many other real estate topics), please visit us at www.123ConEd.com.  We are the leading online provider of Michigan real estate continuing education.  All of our courses are fully approved and properly certified by the State of Michigan, and are offered online.

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