Continuing its efforts to enforce the Fair Housing Act (FHA), last week the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had settled a disability case for $160,000 that it filed in Ohio asserting that a real estate developer and an architect (along with several companies they controlled) failed to comply with the FHA’s design and construction requirements. Specifically, the DOJ claimed that two neighboring condominium complexes had a variety of features that made them inaccessible to individuals with disabilities.

Pursuant to the settlement agreement (which still must be approved by a federal judge), the defendants will pay $100,000 to current condominium owners at the two communities who choose to make accessibility modifications to their units. The modifications will include:  eliminating steps and excessive slopes in the walkways to the front entrances of their units, widening doorways, removing or lowering thresholds, installing removable cabinets in kitchens and bathrooms to increase maneuvering space as well as relocating toilets, showers, and sinks to provide access.  Additionally, the defendants agreed to pay $10,000 each to two local fair housing community organizations as well as a $40,000 civil penalty to the United States.  The DOJ complaint followed an investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

While I am certainly aware that there are always two sides to every story, this case is another reminder that those involved with designing and building multi-family housing need to ensure the accessibility provisions of the FHA are reviewed and complied with. Or you may be faced with a situation involving modifications, retrofits, and financial penalties.

Just A Thought.