The Justice Department filed a lawsuit today against Mississippi-based developer Dawn Properties Inc. (Dawn) and its affiliated companies for violating the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The lawsuit alleges that the defendants violated these laws when they designed and constructed five or more residential properties with barriers that make them inaccessible to persons with disabilities.
“For over two decades, the Fair Housing Act and ADA have required those who design and build multifamily housing complexes to make them accessible to persons with disabilities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “When residential complexes are built with steps but without ramps or other means of access for wheelchair users, Americans with disabilities are denied the basic right to equal housing opportunities.”
“When a developer fails to comply with the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, it deprives those with disabilities of their fundamental right to live and raise families in the environment of their choosing,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis for the Southern District of Mississippi.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Gulfport, Mississippi, alleges that The Lexington (Ridgeland, Mississippi), The Beach Club (Long Beach, Mississippi), The Belmont (Hattiesburg, Mississippi), Grand Biscayne (Biloxi, Mississippi) and Inn by the Sea (Pass Christian, Mississippi) have significant barriers, including steps leading to building entrances, non-existent or excessively sloped pedestrian routes from apartment units to site amenities (such as playgrounds, picnic areas and clubhouses or leasing offices), insufficient maneuvering space for wheelchairs in bathrooms and kitchens, excessively high light switches and environmental controls, and inaccessible parking.
The suit seeks a court order requiring the defendants to bring properties they have designed and constructed since 1991 into compliance with the FHA and the ADA, as well as monetary damages for persons harmed by the lack of accessibility and civil penalties to the United States. The suit also names Dawn’s affiliates Southern Cross Construction Company Inc., Ridgeland Construction One LLC, The Beach Club LLC, The Beach Club II LLC, The Belmont of Lamar LLC, Grand Biscayne Apts. LLC and Seainn LLC, as well as the current owners of the complexes who are necessary parties to the litigation. Anyone with information about the inaccessible conditions at these properties should call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, and follow the prompts to enter mailbox 997.
The federal FHA prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability. Among other things, the FHA requires all multifamily housing constructed after March 13, 1991, to have basic accessibility features, including accessible routes without steps to all ground floor units, and units accessible to wheelchair users and others with disabilities. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at the division website .
The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations in the complaint must still be proven in federal court .