Wednesday, November 19, 2014

N. Illinois Landlord Agrees To Cough Up $255K In Settlement w/ Fair Housing Feds For Allegedly Refusing Reasonable Accommodation For Mobility-Impaired Tenant Living On 3rd Floor Of Non-Elevator Bldg., Then Threatening Eviction When Adult Daughter/Caregiver Moved In

The Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") recently announced (via the Fair Housing Defense blog):
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced [] that it has entered into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA) with University Village, the owner and operator of a 500-unit HUD-subsidized apartment complex in DeKalb, Illinois. As part of the agreement, University Village has agreed to pay $255,000 to settle allegations that it violated fair housing laws when it failed to meet the needs of persons with disabilities and retaliated against a resident with disabilities for requesting a reasonable accommodation.

    The VCA is the result of complaints that were filed by HOPE Fair Housing Center,(1) the RAMP Center for Independent Living(2) and two residents with disabilities, which alleged that University Village made housing unavailable when it assigned a mobility impaired resident to a third-floor unit in a building with no elevator, and threatened her with eviction for having her adult daughter, who was serving as her caregiver, in the unit, even though she had documentation verifying her disability and need for the accommodation. University Village receives federal financial assistance from HUD in the form of project-based vouchers.

    The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of a dwelling because of disability, including refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices when a person with a disability requires such an accommodation. In addition, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance be readily accessible to persons with disabilities and that they be granted the reasonable accommodations they need, including being allowed to have a live-in caregiver in a unit when it is necessary.

    "No one with a disability should be denied the accommodations they need to fully enjoy their home," said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "This agreement reflects HUD's commitment to working with housing providers, including owners of HUD funded housing, to meet their obligation to comply with the nation's fair housing laws."

    Under the terms of the agreement, University Village will pay $255,000, which includes attorney fees,(3) to the two individuals who filed complaints and work with HOPE Fair Housing Center to develop a new reasonable accommodation policy. The complex will also conduct a needs assessment of current tenants and applicants who require assessable units to determine if their needs are being met and ensure that five percent of its units are fully accessible, either by constructing new units or converting existing units.
Source: HUD Settles Claims Alleging Owner of Dekalb Apartment Complex Discriminated Against Persons with Disabilities.

Footnotes

(1) HOPE Fair Housing Center is a non-profit, fair housing advocate dedicated to eliminating housing discrimination and segregation because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, familial status, or any other characteristics protected under state or local laws..

(2) A Center for Independent Living is a non-profit, non-residential organization assisting people with all types of disabilities, regardless of age, to control and direct their own lives.

(3) According to the Voluntary Compliance Agreement, one resident will receive $72,000 (from which payments will be made to reimburse Medicare for expenses related to the failure to provide reasonable accommodation, with her to keep any balance remaining from the $72K). The second resident will receive $20,000. With regard to the balance of the loot, the two non-profit groups involved will each pocket $20K, with the lawyers pocketing $123,000 to cover their legal fees and costs.

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