Reaches Settlement With Apartment Complexes Owners, Developers, Architects,
And Engineers Over Alleged Violations Of Fair Housing Act And Americans
With Disabilities Act
July 19, 2007 - PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Pat Meehan today announced that the government has reached a settlement with Gambone Bros. Development Company and several Philadelphia area apartment complexes, along with their architects and engineers, Joseph A. Zadlo, Chambers Associates, Mike Rosen Architects, and Urwiler &Walter, to resolve alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As part of the settlement, the defendants will, at their expense, modify all areas of the apartment complexes that are currently not in compliance. The Gambone defendants will pay a fine of $25,000 and create a fund not to exceed $307,000 for the purposes of reimbursing aggrieved persons who may have suffered as a result of their failure to design and construct the subject properties in compliance with the FHA and the ADA.
Specifically, the United States’ complaint alleges that defendants have violated the Fair Housing Act by engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination based on disability by failing to design and construct five different Pennsylvania apartment complexes with accessible and adaptable design features as required by law. The defendants also allegedly violated the ADA by failing to design and construct the rental office/model units and exterior public access areas at the complexes to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.
“It is our job to ensure that Americans are not discriminated against because of disability,” said Meehan. “When developers, architects and engineers take money-saving shortcuts around the law, individuals with disabilities suffer. This settlement both corrects past violations and ensures future compliance.”
The Fair Housing Act provides that, in non-elevator buildings with four or more units designed and constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, all ground-floor units are “covered units” and must include certain basic features of accessible and adaptable design so they are usable by persons with disabilities.
The required features of accessible and adaptable design include: (a) public and common use areas that are readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities; (b) doors for passage into and within all premises that are sufficiently wide to allow passage by persons using wheelchairs; (c) an accessible route into and through the dwelling; (d) light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and environmental controls in accessible locations; (e) reinforcements in bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars; and (f) usable kitchens and bathrooms such that an individual in a wheelchair can maneuver about the space.
In addition to making the necessary corrections to the properties as required by this agreement, the defendants must ensure compliance with these statutes going forward. The defendants will also provide all of their employees and agents whose duties include supervisory responsibility for the design and/or construction of covered multifamily dwellings, in-person training on the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act and pertinent provisions of the ADA. The training will be conducted by an independent, qualified third party, approved by the United States, and any expenses associated with this training will be paid by the defendants.
Persons with disabilities who believe they may have been harmed by inaccessibility at Abram’s Run Apartments in King of Prussia, Henderson Square Apartments I and II in King of Prussia, Fox Ridge Apartments in Limerick, Fox Ridge Lakeside Apartments in Limerick, or Lakeview Apartments in Royerstown should call 1-800-896-7743, ext. 7, or see http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/notices.htm to determine how they can file a claim for monetary damages.
This case is being investigated by the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the Department of Justice and handled by Assistant US Attorney Margaret L. Hutchinson and DOJ Trial Attorney Kathleen Pennington.
STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
EASTERN DISTRICT, PENNSYLVANIA
Suite 1250, 615 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Benjamin Franklin Photo by B. Krist for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation