WASHINGTON – The Justice Department filed a lawsuit today in federal district court in Savannah, Ga., against the owners, developers, builders and engineers of two Savannah condominium complexes for failing to include required accessible features for persons with disabilities. The complaint alleges that Genesis Designer Homes LLC, Genesis Real Estate Group, Thomas and Hutton Engineering Company, and Malphrus Construction Company violated the Fair Housing Act in the design and construction of Stonelake Townhomes and Highlands Crossing.
The suit seeks a court order requiring the defendants to modify the complexes to bring them into compliance with federal law and prohibiting future discrimination by the defendants. It also seeks monetary damages to compensate victims and a civil penalty to be paid to the government to vindicate the public interest.
“New multi-family housing complexes built after March 1991 must have basic accessible features for persons with disabilities,” said Rena J. Comisac, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Yet 16 years later, the Justice Department must still remain vigilant in pursuing those who fail to comply. We demand that retrofits be made to ensure that persons with disabilities have an equal opportunity to enjoy their homes.”
According to the government’s complaint, the complexes lack accessible routes into the dwellings, the doors in the units are too narrow to allow access by persons using wheelchairs, the bathroom walls lack reinforcements needed for the safe installation of grab bars, and the common and public use areas are not accessible. In many instances there are no accessible routes from the dwellings to the main sidewalks or to the swimming pool and mailbox areas. There are also no accessible parking spaces at the complexes.
Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department. Since Jan. 1, 2001, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has filed 237 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, 111 of which have alleged discrimination based on disability.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. 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 at 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.