In May, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit alleging disability discrimination in the design and construction of 82 multifamily housing complexes located in 13 States, including 9 complexes in North Carolina.The lawsuit alleges that the Defendants failed to design and construct housing units, including public and common areas, to make them accessible to persons with disabilities in compliance with the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The FHA prohibits discrimination in housing because of disability. Among other things, it requires that all multifamily housing constructed after March 13, 1991, have basic exterior and interior accessibility features. The requirements apply to units, as well as for public and common use areas, such as a leasing office, clubhouse, parking, dumpsters, mailboxes, picnic areas, and other site features or amenities.
The case, U.S. v. Miller-Valentine Operations Inc., et al., was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. It alleges that the 82 complexes contain more than 3,000 units that are required by the FHA to have accessible interior and exterior features, and most contain public spaces that are required to comply with the ADA. Significant accessibility barriers are alleged to exist, including:
- Steps leading to building entrances;
- Non-existent or excessively sloped pedestrian routes from apartment units to site amenities (e.g., picnic areas, dumpsters, clubhouse/leasing offices);
- Inaccessible parking;
- Inaccessible bathrooms and kitchens in units;
- Inaccessible door hardware; and
- Insufficient maneuvering space at unit entrances and entrances to common use areas that make those entrances inaccessible to many people with disabilities.
According to the complaint, the Defendants built many of the complexes with the assistance of federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits or with the financial assistance of other federal government programs.
The lawsuit seeks an order (1) requiring the Defendants to bring the properties into compliance with the FHA and the ADA, (2) requiring the Defendants to pay monetary damages to persons harmed by the lack of accessibility and civil penalties to the United States to vindicate the public interest, and (3) Prohibiting the defendants from designing or constructing future residential properties in a manner that discriminates against persons with disabilities.
The properties at issue in North Carolina are:
- Madison Place Senior, Gastonia, NC
- Pinecrest Apartments, Walkertown, NC
- River Crossing, Charlotte, NC
- The Enclave at Winston-Salem, Winston-Salem, NC
- The Landings at Steele Creek I, Charlotte, NC
- The Landings at Steele Creek II, Charlotte, NC
- Twin Cedars I, Hickory, NC
- Twin Cedars II, Hickory, NC
- Villas at Twin Cedars, Hickory, NC
Anyone with information about the inaccessible conditions at these properties should call the United States Department of Justice at 1-800-896-7743, and follow the prompts to enter mailbox number 9996, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
More from this Newsletter Issue: Spring 2020
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