FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASECR
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1999(202) 353-8584
TDD (202) 514-1888
LAS VEGAS DEVELOPER, BUILDER AND ARCHITECT
SETTLE ACCESSIBILITY LAWSUIT WITH JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A Las Vegas developer and construction company have agreed to modify four apartment complexes to provide greater accessibility to persons with disabilities, under an agreement reached today with the Justice Department.
The agreement, filed in the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, resolves allegations that Inland Empire Builders, Inc., The Heers Family Trust, Charles M. Heers, Marilyn C. Heers, and architect Eric Miller, violated the Fair Housing Act by not building accessible housing for persons with disabilities. Under the Fair Housing Act, multi-family housing complexes with four or more units which were first occupied after March 13, 1991 are required to include, among other things, accessible common areas, accessible routes in the common areas, doors that are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, thermostats and electrical outlets in accessible locations, reinforced bathroom walls that can support grab bars, and bathrooms and kitchens that are large enough to be used by persons who use wheelchairs.
"Today's settlement ensures that people with disabilities will not be shut out of Las Vegas' rapid growth," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "We will remain ever vigilant to ensure that all builders comply with the Fair Housing Act's modest accessibility requirements."
The Justice Department began investigating the apartment complexes after receiving a referral from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which received numerous complaints from the Disabled Rights Action Committee, a local advocacy group in Las Vegas. Following a thorough investigation, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit in March 1998. The Justice Department's complaint alleged numerous violations at the four apartment buildings in addition to a condominium complex. Today's settlement does not cover the condominium complex, which remains the subject of ongoing discussions between the parties.
"This settlement points out the need in the Las Vegas area for accessible housing," added Kathryn E. Landreth, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada. "This office remains committed to assuring that the Fair Housing Act requirements are met."
Under today's agreement, the defendants will, among other things:
- retrofit the common areas and individual units of the four apartment complexes to provide accessibility to persons with disabilities;
- hire an expert to determine whether their 7 apartment complexes in Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona, comply with the Fair Housing Act, and, if necessary, retrofit common areas and individual units at those properties;
- pay a total of $50,000 to tenants who suffered damages as a result of their units not having accessible features; and,
- pay a $35,000 civil penalty to the United States.
The agreement also requires that architect Eric Miller donate 300 hours of free technical assistance to non-profit organizations and receive training in the Fair Housing Act. Last month, the court approved a separate agreement with architect George F. Tibsherany that required him to pay a $15,000 civil penalty, donate 300 hours of free technical assistance to non-profit organizations, and receive training in the Fair Housing Act.
The four apartment complexes covered by this agreement are Aviata Apartments, 2121 East Warm Springs Road; Eastgate Apartments, 3055 South Nellis Boulevard; Mesa Verde Apartments, 6335 Annie Oakley Drive; and, Vintage Apartments, 8321 West Sahara Avenue
Any individual who feels that s/he was hurt by the lack of accessibility features at those apartment complexes should call the Housing Section of the Civil Rights Division at Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743.