The Equal Rights Center (ERC), a housing advocacy group, recently filed a suit against Lerner Enterprises and related entities in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The suit alleges design and construction violations of the handicap accessibility requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ERC is the major advocacy group bringing federal lawsuits against large developers to enforce the design and construction provisions of federal legislation, having brought 12 actions since 2005. The ERC has also sent demand letters to smaller developers, threatening litigation if settlements are not reached.
The ERC had last filed a lawsuit about one year ago. But its recent action signals that the campaign to enforce handicap accessibility standards is continuing, despite a short lull and the change in administration.
Since earlier cases against The Bozzuto Group and Trammell Crow Residential (TCR) settled, both of which were defended by Ballard Spahr lawyers, other multifamily housing developers, such as AvalonBay, Camden Property Trust, and Kettler, have settled similar cases with the ERC. The framework of the TCR settlement served as the template for the negotiated settlements with these companies.
Three major developers, Post Properties, Lion Gables Realty Limited Partnership, and Equity Residential, have continued to litigate with the ERC over years of motions, property surveys, experts’ evaluations and depositions, and extensive document productions. Post Properties succeeded in having its case dismissed for the ERC’s alleged lack of standing when dispositive motions were filed after extensive discovery, but that decision is on appeal.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed amicus pleadings in support of the ERC in many of these cases and is pursuing similar cases of its own. The New York State Attorney General’s Office and other state and local agencies around the country continue to pursue similar claims. Ballard Spahr attorneys regularly provide advice to property owners and developers on how to address these claims.