FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SUES IDAHO APARTMENT COMPLEX
FOR DISCRIMINATING AGAINST PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Justice Department filed a lawsuit yesterday in U.S. District Court in Idaho, against the designers and builders of the Turnberry at Village Green Apartments (Turnberry) in Lewiston, Idaho, for failing to comply with the requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act that new multi-family housing be accessible to persons with disabilities.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination based on disability because Turnberry has many features that make them inaccessible to persons with disabilities. The United States alleges that:
The lawsuit also alleges that the defendants have retaliated against tenants with disabilities who have requested reasonable accommodations.
The defendants named in the lawsuit include the developers, Thomas Mannschreck, Thomas Development Co., Turnberry Limited Partnership, and Links Properties, LLC, the architect, Rocky Towle, and the site engineer, Eric Hasenoehrl.
"The Fair Housing Act has required newly constructed multifamily housing to be accessible for more than 10 years, but apartment and condominium complexes are still being designed and built so that persons with disabilities cannot live there, said Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "Builders would be well advised to build it accessible the first time, rather than have to take costly measures to fix it later."
Under the Fair Housing Act, apartment and condominium complexes with four or more units that were built for occupancy after March 1991 must include accessible public and common use areas; accessible routes into and through dwellings; doors that are wide enough to accommodate persons who use wheelchairs; bathroom walls that have reinforcements for the installation of grab bars; electrical outlets, light switches and thermostats at accessible heights; and bathrooms and kitchens that have large enough clear floor space for people who use wheelchairs to move around and use them.
In buildings without elevators, such as those at issue in this lawsuit, only ground floor units are required to be accessible. In elevator buildings all apartments and condominiums must be accessible. The Americans With Disabilities Act also requires that the public areas of apartment buildings, such as the rental office and the public parking, meet federal accessibility guidelines.
This matter arose out of a complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), alleging that the Defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to design and construct Turnberry at Village Green Apartments so as to be accessible to persons with disabilities. HUD subsequently referred the matter to the Department of Justice.
"Ensuring greater access for people with disabilities is a high priority with this Administration," said Kenneth Marcus, General Deputy Assistant Secretary for HUD's office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "The filing sends a clear message that we will vigorously enforce the law to ensure fair housing for people with disabilities."
Persons who believe they were denied housing or otherwise discriminated against at
Turnberry at Village Green Apartments, should contact the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743 or the Intermountain Fair Housing Council (IFHC) at 208-383-0695.
Other persons who believe their apartment or condominium buildings may violate the Fair Housing Act's accessibility requirements, or who believe that they have been otherwise discriminated against on the basis of disability, may contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at 1-800-669-9777. Additional information is available on HUD's website at: http://www.hud.gov/groups/disabilities.cfm.