Sunday, December 25, 2016

Bay State Real Estate Developer/Landlord That Operated 96-Unit Apartment Complex Agrees To Cough Up $20K To Each Of Two Disabled Tenants, Up To $30K To State In Resolution Of Lawsuit Alleging It Designed & Built Complex That Failed To Meet Accessibility Standards, & Unreasonably Refused To Provide Accessibility-Related Accommodations Requested By Renters

From the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General:
  • A Haverhill-based real estate company has agreed to pay up to $70,000 to resolve allegations that it failed to accommodate two tenants with disabilities at an Andover apartment complex, Attorney General Maura Healey announced [].

    The consent judgment, entered in Suffolk Superior Court, resolves allegations that Andover Portland Avenue Associates, LLC (Andover Portland) violated state antidiscrimination and consumer protection laws by failing to making reasonable modifications to accommodate tenants with disabilities residing at the “Casco Crossing” apartment complex in Andover. The consent judgment also resolves claims that the company initially failed to design and construct the apartment complex to meet accessibility standards required by law.

    “People with disabilities regularly face barriers to housing choice and opportunity,” said AG Healey. “This settlement demonstrates our continued commitment to enforcing our fair housing laws to ensure that property owners and managers work with tenants with disabilities.”

    Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability in the rental of housing accommodations. Specifically, the law makes it unlawful for a landlord or managing agent to refuse to make a reasonable accommodation or modification if it is necessary to afford the person with a disability full enjoyment of the premises, to fail to engage in a meaningful interactive process in response to requests for accommodations or modifications, and to fail to design and construct housing in compliance with accessibility standards.

    Andover Portland previously owned and operated Casco Crossing, a 96-unit apartment complex in Andover, before it changed ownership in May 2015. In 2014, the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board found that Casco Crossing was non-compliant with building code accessibility requirements.

    According to the AG’s complaint, also filed in Suffolk Superior Court, a tenant who primarily used an electric wheelchair requested several accommodations, including a ramp to access the building, grab bars in the bathroom, a handicap-accessible toilet, and accessible parking, among other things. In each instance, Andover Portland allegedly failed to engage in an interactive dialogue and unreasonably refused to provide the modifications or accommodations.

    Additionally, the mother of another tenant with several disabilities requested reasonable modifications, including an automatic door opener to the building to allow for wheelchair access and the prompt removal of ice from the sidewalks in the winter. According to the complaint, the company ignored and failed to properly address these requests.

    The complaint alleges that due to Andover Portland’s failure to provide reasonable modifications and accommodations, the tenants suffered emotional distress, were unable to access common areas and parts of their apartments, and incurred certain additional expenses.

    Pursuant to the consent judgment, Andover Portland will pay the two tenants $20,000 each. The company is also required to pay $15,000 to the state, with an additional $15,000 suspended pending the company’s compliance with other provisions of the settlement.

    Andover Portland is also required to develop a comprehensive fair housing policy, to train all of its staff on federal and state housing laws, and to hire a consultant who specializes in architectural access and compliance with the building code’s accessibility regulations for all new residential property construction or renovation undertaken in Massachusetts.
Source: Real Estate Company Resolves Claims of Failing to Accommodate Tenants with Disabilities (Property Located in Andover; Settlement Includes Payments to Victims and Requires Company to Develop a Comprehensive Fair Housing Policy).

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