Sunday, August 16, 2015

Alleged Failure To Grant Request For Wheelchair Ramp For Tenant's Severely Disabled Young Son For Over A Year To Cost Foot-Dragging Bay State Landlord $15K In Damages To Settle Fair Housing Suit

From the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General:
  • A Springfield landlord, property management company, and condominium trust have agreed to attend fair housing training, implement a reasonable accommodation policy, and pay $15,000 to resolve allegations that they failed to timely grant requests for a wheelchair ramp and easier building access for a tenant whose young son is severely disabled, Attorney General Maura Healey announced [].

    “Tenants with disabilities should be able to use and enjoy their homes to the fullest extent possible,” AG Healey said. “Landlords are required under state law to work closely with tenants with disabilities to ensure that they are provided reasonable housing accommodations in a timely manner. This settlement will implement the policy changes and education needed to improve equal access.”

    According to the assurance of discontinuance, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Michele Zakashansky – individually and as an agent of Sunset Properties, LLC and Pearl Street Condominium Trust – discriminated against the tenant on the basis of her son’s disability by failing to grant the tenant’s request for a wheelchair ramp for over a year. Without a ramp, the tenant was required to carry her son and his wheelchair up and down several stairs and through multiple doors when entering or exiting her apartment building.

    The assurance of discontinuance further alleges that Zakashansky wrongly failed to permit the tenant’s request for access to the rear entrance of her apartment through a locked side gate, which would have allowed her to transport her son up and down fewer stairs and through fewer doors.

    Under the terms of the settlement, Zakashansky will attend training on Massachusetts and federal fair housing law, adopt a Fair Housing Policy that complies with state and federal laws, and implement a written non-discrimination statement that will be distributed to all employees, tenants, and prospective tenants. The landlord, property management company, and condominium trust will also pay $15,000, which includes $11,000 for the tenant, $2,000 to the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center,(1) and $2,000 to the Commonwealth. The landlord and property management company must also continue to maintain the ramp, which was installed prior to the agreement set forth in the assurance of discontinuance.

    Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability in the rental of housing accommodations. This prohibition includes a landlord or managing agent’s refusal to make a reasonable accommodation or modification if it is necessary to afford the person with a disability full enjoyment of the premises.
Source: Springfield Landlord Resolves Allegations of Disability-Based Housing Discrimination (Defendants to Pay $15,000, Implement Reasonable Accommodation Policy and Attend Fair Housing Training after Delaying Installation of Wheelchair Ramp).

(1) The Massachusetts Fair Housing Center (also known as the Housing Discrimination Project, Inc.) provides free legal services and accepts housing discrimination complaints based on race, national origin, color, ancestry, religion, sex, disability, presence of minor children, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, marital status, military or veteran status, receipt of public assistance, including Section 8 housing assistance, receipt of housing subsidies or rental assistance, and genetic information.

MFHC also preserves homeownership, by advocating for distressed homeowners in mortgage lending cases, and by assisting victims of foreclosure rescue scams.

MFHC serves Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester Counties.

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