Earlier this month, HUD announced that it had settled a disability discrimination case against the owner and manager of a 500 unit affordable apartment community in Illinois.  The resolution required ownership to pay $255,000 to settle claims that it violated the fair housing laws in that the community failed to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities and then by retaliating against a resident with a disability because the resident requested a reasonable accommodation.

The allegations that made up the complaint involved two individuals with disabilities who, it was claimed, were unable to use their housing because management assigned a mobility impaired resident to a third floor unit in a building lacking an elevator and then threatened to evict the resident because she had her adult daughter (who was acting as a caregiver) living with her in the apartment.  Under the terms of the settlement, in addition to the financial component, ownership will now work to develop a new reasonable accommodation policy and will conduct a needs assessment of current residents who require accessible housing to determine if their needs are being met.  The agreement also includes a provision to ensure that five percent of the community’s units are full accessible.

As a defense lawyer, I know there are always two sides to every case and I certainly do not rush to judge any matter in which I am not involved.  Just note that the settlement amount here ($255,000, including a portion designated as attorney’s fees) is exceedingly large and likely reflects the strength of the case.  Also, HUD (as well as city, state, and local fair housing agencies) takes a stern view when retaliation is alleged and management always needs to ensure we have appropriate documentation to prove we did not retaliate. 

Just a Thought.