On June 25, 2012, the Justice Department announced its largest-ever disability-based housing discrimination settlement fund to resolve allegations that JPI Construction L.P. and six other related entities based in Irving, Texas, discriminated on the basis of disability in the design and construction of multifamily housing complexes throughout the United States.
In a press release announcing the settlement, the Justice Department stated:
Under the settlement, which was approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, JPI will pay $10,250,000 into an accessibility fund to provide retrofits at properties built by JPI and to increase the stock of accessible housing in the communities where these properties are located. The settlement also requires JPI to pay a $250,000 civil penalty. This is the largest civil penalty the Justice Department has obtained in any Fair Housing Act case.
“Today’s historic settlement demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the fair housing rights of persons with disabilities,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Builders of multifamily housing must consider accessibility at the outset, or they risk significantly greater expense to retrofit properties. As a result of this settlement, multifamily housing complexes will be retrofitted to comply with the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and persons with physical disabilities will be afforded an equal opportunity to live in and visit these properties.”
The federal Fair Housing Act requires that multifamily housing constructed for first occupancy after March of 1991 comply with certain accessibility requirements to provide accessibility for people with mobility impairments and other disabilities. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also requires certain public accommodations, including leasing offices and other public areas located at private housing complexes, to contain accessibile features.
The lawsuit against JPI was filed in March 2009, after the Justice Department conducted an investigation and found accessibility barriers at various JPI properties. Since 1991, JPI and its affiliates built 210 multifamily properties in 26 states and the District of Columbia.
In addition to the $10.5 million payment, the settlement prohibits JPI from discriminating on the basis of disability in the future and from interfering with or preventing the retrofitting that will take place at the JPI properties.
The JPI entities that are responsible for paying the settlement amount are: JPI Construction L.P.; Multifamily Construction L.L.C.; JPI Apartment Development L.P., dba JPI Campus Quarters; Lifestyle Apartment Development Service L.L.C.; Jefferson Bend L.P., dba Jefferson at Mission Gate Apartments; Jefferson Lake Creek L.P., dba Jefferson Center Apartments; and Apartment Community Realty L.L.C.
To read the Justice Department’s press release announcing the settlement, click here.