As I have written many times previously, the U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) and fair housing testers are out there looking for instances where they believe housing discrimination is taking place.  Indeed, just last month, DOJ announced that the developer and designers of an apartment complex in Washington Township, Michigan agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging that they violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) when they designed and constructed a 200 unit apartment complex with steps to the front door and other barriers that make it inaccessible to persons with disabilities.

Under a proposed agreement, the defendants will make extensive modifications to the complex over the next three years to improve accessibility and will pay $30,000 to compensate persons who have been harmed by the inaccessible design and construction.  The proposed consent order would settle a lawsuit filed by DOJ in January 2009.   Pursuant to the terms of the deal, the defendants will:

  • Make retrofits to all 200 units in the complex to make them more accessible;
  • Ensure that future or ongoing construction meets the accessibility requirements of the FHA; and
  • Establish a $30,000 fund to pay individuals who were harmed by the lack of accessible features at the properties.

The lawsuit arose after a fair housing group conducted accessibility testing at the Enclave Apartments and provided the testing results to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.   Named defendants include the developer, the architects who designed the complexes, and the civil engineer involved with the project.  This settlement confirms, yet again, that apartment ownership and management must pay attention to the design and construction requirements in applicable law to ensure accessibility.   Our you might really need a lawyer like me.

Just A Thought.