Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) resolved a Fair Housing Act (FHA) case against a New York based property management company in which the government asserted the defendants discriminated against a prospective home purchaser on the basis of his disability and by refusing to provide reasonable accommodations as required by law.
As contained in a January 2017 complaint, the management company for the housing cooperative rejected the application of an individual seeking to purchase a one bedroom unit because of his various disabilities. Specifically, it was alleged that the individual had suffered numerous heart attacks, had developmental language and learning disorders, as well as suffered from depression. The applicant (and his family) sought to have formal ownership of the unit be placed in a legal trust, which would help the applicant manage the requirements of cooperative housing. According to the DOJ, the management agent rejected efforts to purchase the unit in such a trust and in so doing, engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination as the company also manages other properties. Because of the asserted unlawful conduct, the applicant was forced to stay in a boarding house with abysmal living conditions, grew increasingly depressed, and suffered another heart attack.
Pursuant to the terms of a settlement agreement, the defendants will: (a) pay a total of $125,000 (which includes damages and attorney’s fees) to the applicant and civil money penalties to the United States; (b) adopt reasonable accommodation policies and forms to be approved by the DOJ; and (c) take annual FHA training which will include reviewing reasonable accommodation requests.
The takeaway here for professional apartment management? Reasonable accommodation requests can come in all shapes and sizes. It is our responsibility to review and evaluate each of them. Simply rejecting them outright might mean you will really need to speak with a lawyer like me.
Just a Thought.