U.S. Department of Justice files lawsuit alleging disability-based discrimination by owners and developers of 82 apartment complexes in 13 states.
The FHA prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex and familial status.
For over two decades federal laws have required multifamily housing complexes to be built with accessible features.
The Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio today announced the filing of a lawsuit against Ohio-based Miller-Valentine Operations Inc. and affiliated companies, owners, developers and builders of 82 multifamily housing complexes located in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants failed to design and construct housing units and related facilities to make them accessible to persons with disabilities in compliance with the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The 82 complexes contain more than 3,000 units that are required by the FHA to have accessible features, and most contain public spaces that are required to comply with the ADA.
According to the government's 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.
"For over two decades federal laws have required multifamily housing complexes to be built with accessible features," said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. "The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the rights of persons with disabilities to equal access to housing opportunities, including accessible dwellings and related facilities."
"We're in the business of enforcing federal civil rights laws to their fullest extent," said U.S. Attorney Glassman. "It doesn't matter to us whether the defendant is an individual in a single neighborhood or, as here, a company operating in many states. The complaint that the United States filed today alleges not only that Miller-Valentine designed and built multi-family housing complexes that are not accessible to people with disabilities, but also that Miller-Valentine took public money to build those complexes and yet still built them such that some citizens wouldn't be able to live there."
The lawsuit, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, alleges that the 82 properties have significant accessibility barriers, 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; 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.
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.
(3) prohibiting the defendants from designing or constructing future residential properties in a manner that discriminates against persons with disabilities. The complexes at issue are:
Anyone with information about the inaccessible conditions at these properties should call the 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.
The FHA prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex and familial status. Among other things, it requires all multifamily housing constructed after March 13, 1991, to have basic accessibility features, including accessible routes without steps or steep slopes to all ground-floor units. Enacted in 1990, the ADA requires, among other things, that places of public accommodation - such as rental offices - at multifamily housing complexes designed and constructed for first occupancy after Jan. 26, 1993, be accessible to persons with disabilities. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt
The complaint contains allegations of unlawful conduct; the allegations must be proven in court.
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