WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement resolving a lawsuit against Chicago-based Covenant Retirement Communities Inc. and its subsidiaries. The complaint alleged that this nationwide provider of retirement housing violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against residents based on disability.
According to the United States’ complaint, the defendants employed policies that required residents who used motorized mobility aids (e.g., canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters) to obtain personal liability insurance, demonstrate their competence at operating the motorized aid, and provide physicians’ certifications of need. The defendants also barred residents and visitors from using mobility aids in certain common areas, including dining rooms, and steered persons with mobility impairments from independent living to assisted living.
“This agreement will ensure that residents with disabilities are not denied equal access to their housing communities,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of all the fair housing laws.”
The facilities that were employing these policies are: Covenant Village of Turlock, Turlock, Cal.; Mount Miguel Covenant Village, Spring Valley, Cal.; The Samarkand, Santa Barbara, Cal.; Covenant Village of Colorado, Westminster, Colo.; Covenant Village of Golden Valley, Golden Valley, Minn.; Covenant Shores, Mercer Island, Wash.; Covenant Village of Cromwell, Cromwell, Conn.; Covenant Village of Florida, Plantation, Fla.; Covenant Village of the Great Lakes, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Covenant Village of Northbrook, Northbrook, Ill.; The Holmstad, Batavia, Ill.; Windsor Park Manor, Carol Stream, Ill.; Bethany Covenant Village, Minneapolis, Minn.; Covenant Home of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.; and Irvington Village, Portland, Ore.
The agreement, which must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, dismantles those policies and calls for employee training, a nondiscrimination policy, record keeping, and monitoring. Additionally, defendants will establish a $530,000 settlement fund for persons who may have been injured by their policies and pay each resident who was tested $250 (and such additional damages as they may have suffered).
The case originated when a retired couple filed discrimination complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD conducted an investigation and referred the matter to the Justice Department.
Persons with disabilities who believe they may have been injured by the violations at one of the facilities should call 1-800-896-7743, ext. 5 or see http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/notices.htm to determine how they can file a claim for monetary damages.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Since Jan. 1, 2001, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has filed 230 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, 105 of which have alleged discrimination based on disability. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line (1-800-896-7743), email the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.