Faithful readers know I have reported on this issue time and time again.  Professional apartment owners and management companies MUST appropriately respond to requests for reasonable accommodations or reasonable modifications.  Failing to do so can lead to uncomfortable questions and expensive outcomes. 

On December 22, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ") reached a $1.25 million agreement with Warren Properties, Inc., that concluded litigation filed following a housing discrimination case filed with HUD.  The charge alleged that management refused to transfer a disabled resident following a request for a reasonable accommodation.

To settle the action, the defendants ultimately agreed to pay $1,195,000 to the resident and another $55,000 in fees and costs to the United States.  Furthermore, the defendants must attend fair housing training and hire a reasonable accommodation facilitator to handle requests for reasonable accommodations from more than 11,000 housing units that Warren Properties manages.  

At the time he moved into the property, the applicant was a paraplegic who required the use of crutches and braces to walk.  In 2007, when the plaintiff applied for a unit at Warren Village, he told them that he needed a first floor unit near the front of the building, due to his use of crutches.  Though no units were available, the management assured him one would be available soon, and they would transfer him.  As such, the resident accepted a second floor unit in August 2007. 

HUD’s investigation found that a first floor unit became available two weeks later, but the resident was not transferred. As a result of having to climb the stairs, the resident fell multiple times and developed an abscess which became infected.  These injuries resulted hospitalization and surgery.  While the resident was recovering in the hospital, the first floor available unit was rented.  The resident left the hospital in February 2008 and was confined to a wheelchair.  Completely unable to access his second floor apartment, the resident was forced to move out.

While these facts are unfortunate and severe, the lesson is clear:  always respond to reasonable accommodation and/or reasonable modification requests.  Make sure you follow up on those requests.  Inaction — even when it is only benign — can and will make management look worse than bad.

Just A Thought.