Sunday, March 19, 2017

Massachusetts AG Shakes $75K (Tenant's Share: $60K) Out Of Landlord In Settlement Of Fair Housing Allegations That Wheelchair-Bound Tenant's Requests For Accessibility Modifications To Their Home Were Either Met With Undue Delays Or Improperly Denied Altogether

From the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General:
  • Multiple individuals will receive monetary damages and several property owners and management companies across the state will strengthen their anti-discrimination and fair housing policies after three separate settlements were reached over claims of disability-based housing discrimination against tenants, Attorney General Maura Healey announced [recently].

    The AG’s Office finalized settlements in three separate cases resolving allegations that the defendants, mainly property owners and managers, discriminated against tenants by failing to reasonably accommodate their disabilities.
In one case:
  • The Related Companies, Inc., Related Washington Heights, LLC, and Related Management Company, L.P., own or manage Washington Heights, a large housing complex in Worcester.

    According to a complaint filed by the AG’s Office, these defendants engaged in discriminatory and unlawful housing practices against a tenant on the basis of her disabilities by failing to provide reasonable accommodations and modifications. The tenant began using a wheelchair after suffering a stroke during childbirth.

    In January 2013, the tenant and her husband requested an accessible unit with a wheelchair ramp but allegedly were told the waitlist was years long and they would be better off moving elsewhere. At that time, they began requesting reasonable modifications to make their home accessible, the majority of which allegedly were met with undue delays by the defendants and some requests were denied altogether, including making the sidewalk ramp to the entryway of the apartment safe and usable for the tenant.

    The AG’s Office alleged that the tenant’s recovery was adversely impacted by the lack of accessibility. She was unable to leave her home on her own and, at times, unable to even move from one room to another. Her husband’s health was also adversely impacted by the delays after he injured his back while caring for his wife.

    Pursuant to a consent judgement filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the defendants have agreed to pay a total of $75,000, including $60,000 in damages to the tenant and $15,000 to the Commonwealth. The companies will also be required to update their antidiscrimination policies, pay for training on fair housing laws for all employees and for educational programs for residents regarding their rights as tenants and resources available for tenants with disabilities. As a condition of the consent judgment, the defendants will also work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on an assessment of the property’s compliance with applicable federal law.
For more, see AG Healey Obtains Multiple Settlements in Fair Housing Cases on Behalf of Tenants With Disabilities (Properties Located in Worcester, Roxbury, and East Wareham; Settlements Secure $155,000 in Restitution for Tenants, Penalties and Funding for Educational Programs).

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