Saturday, September 10, 2016

Recalcitrant Queens Landlord's Refusal To Reasonably Accommodate Severely Disabled Tenant With Accessible Bathtub (& Unwillingness To Cooperate With Administrative Probe) Leads To $120K Slam (Includes $80K Damages To Tenants) From City Human Rights Commission; Landlord Plans Appeal

In New York City, the New York Post reports:
  • A Queens landlord who wouldn’t spend $10,000 on a new bathtub to accommodate a severely disabled tenant has been hit with $120,000 in penalties and damages by the city’s Human Rights Commission.

    Milena Jovic refused multiple requests to install an accessible bathtub in Lynn Blue’s third-floor apartment for her 17-year-old daughter, Bianca Torres, who suffers from serious disabilities that include autism, seizure disorders, a cleft palate and vision problems, according to official documents.

    Blue complained that the tub is too high and it’s nearly impossible for her to get Bianca — who wears a leg brace and often crawls to get around the apartment — inside.

    “She’s an evil person, she doesn’t care . . . It’s horrible. It’s been a nightmare . . . Shame on her,” a tearful Blue said Friday [August 26]. “I would move out if I could, just for my sanity . . . I used to love my home; now I hate coming home.”

    Blue reached out for help to the commission, which ordered that a smaller tub be installed that would have cost between $8,500 and $10,000.

    But after two years of negotiations and no movement — the landlord insisted the tub was up to code — the commission filed charges.

    An administrative law judge, John Spooner, decided that Blue suffered “considerable anxiety” over the two years and imposed penalties totalling $120,000 — a $40,000 fine, $50,000 to Blue for emotional distress and $30,000 to her daughter.

    The commission, which asked for even higher penalties totaling $370,000, said it was reviewing the judge’s recommendation.

    Jovic told The Post she missed the administrative trial because her lawyer had major surgery and plans to appeal.
Source: Landlord fined $120K for cheaping out on bathtub for disabled tenant.

For the administrative law judge's ruling imposing liability on landlord, see Comm’n on Human Rights ex. rel. Blue v. Jovic, OATH Index No. 1624/16 (June 30, 2016). From that ruling:
  • As to the reasonability of the accommodation requested, respondents cannot be heard to contend that a modified bathtub or walk-in shower is unreasonable because, over the course of the past year, they have refused to provide any information to the Commission suggesting otherwise.

    Under the Code, “reasonableness is established through the respondent’s failure to prove undue hardship.” Comm’n on Human Rights ex rel. Stamm v. E&E Bagels, Inc., OATH Index No. 803/14 (Mar. 21, 2014), adopted, Comm’n Dec. & Order at 10 (Apr. 20, 2016), citing Philips v. City of New York, 66 A.D.3d 170, 182 (1st Dep’t 2009).

    Because respondents have defied the Commission’s efforts to discover evidence as to whether the requested reasonable accommodation might cause an undue burden on the landlord, the accommodation must be deemed reasonable as a matter of law.

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