WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced a settlement of its lawsuit alleging that Equity Homes Inc, PBR LLC, BBR LLC and Shane Hartung violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) by failing to provide features that would make their multi-family housing developments in Sioux Falls accessible to people with disabilities as required by the Fair Housing Act.
The case originated from discrimination complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), concerning six Sioux Falls complexes - East Briar Apartments, West Briar Apartments, Kensington Apartments, Beverly Gardens Apartments, Sertoma Hills Apartments and Sertoma Hills Villas. After investigating, HUD issued a charge of discrimination and referred the matter to the Justice Department, which filed this lawsuit in May 2009. In its complaint, the Justice Department named Equity Homes Inc., PBR LLC, BBR LLC and Shane Hartung as defendants liable for violations of the FHA. The complaint also names Scott Snoozy, Myron R. Van Buskirk, Wayne Hansen, Martin McGee and Sertoma Hills Villas Association Inc., the current owners of the properties who were named in order to obtain complete relief.
The settlement filed today, along with a prior consent order entered in this case on July 20, 2011, now fully resolves this matter. Today’s agreement must still be approved by the court. According to the settlement, defendants Equity Homes Inc., BBR LLC and Shane Hartung will modify the six apartment complexes to make them accessible to persons with disabilities and will pay $41,500 in monetary damages to those harmed by the inaccessible housing. The settlements in this case also require these defendants to undergo training on the requirements on the Fair Housing Act and provide periodic reports to the government.
“Building apartments and condominiums that are accessible to persons with disabilities is not an option, it is the law,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Builders, architects and others who build or design multi-family housing need to consider accessibility at the outset, or they risk much greater expenses to fix the problem later.”
“My office is committed to ensuring that South Dakota’s disabled citizens receive the reasonable accommodations they need to function and live as others do,” said Brendan Johnson, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota. “We will remain vigilant in enforcing our nation’s fair housing laws so that our citizens are not excluded from housing opportunities.”
“Access to a unit brings access to self-sufficiency and independence for people with disabilities,” stated John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity. “Through industry training and legal compliance, we will make this a reality across the nation.”
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination should call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line (1-800-896-7743) or email the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org. Such persons may also contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777 or at www.hud.gov.
Fair housing enforcement is a priority of the Civil Rights Division. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt.