FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
MONDAY, APRIL 15, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT FILES SECOND LAWSUIT ALLEGING
DISABILITY-BASED HOUSING DISCRIMINATION IN OLATHE, KANSAS
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department today sued the developers, contractors, architect, and civil engineer of the Ridgeview Apartments and Indian Meadows Apartments in Olathe, Kansas for violating the Fair Housing Act's requirement that multifamily housing built since 1991 be accessible to persons with disabilities.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, charges that architect LNL Associates/Architects, P.A.; civil engineers Gary Allenbrand and Loren Drews, doing business as Allenbrand-Drews and Associates, Inc.; and Allenbrand-Drews and Associates, Inc. along with developers and contractors R.L. Davis; R.L. Davis Company, L.L.C.; Porta-McCurdy Development Company, L.L.C.; Summit Contractors, Inc.; Olathe Leased Housing Associates I, L.P.; Olathe Leased Housing Associates II, L.P.; NHG Olathe Partners, L.L.C.; Nationwide Housing Group; Dominium Kansas One, L.P.; and Dominium Olathe Partners, L.P. violated federal civil rights law by designing and constructing these apartment complexes without required features that allow persons with disabilities to use them.
The Justice Department also charges that the defendants have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because the public areas associated with the clubhouse rental offices at these complex are not accessible.
Two of the defendants, LNL Associates/Architects and Allenbrand-Drews, are also defendants in another Justice Department lawsuit filed last May which involves two other Olathe, Kansas apartment complexes, the Homestead Apartment Homes and Wyncroft Hill Apartments.
Under the Fair Housing Act, all units in elevator buildings, ground-floor units in other buildings, and public and common use areas at all recently built apartment and condominium complexes must include certain features allowing persons with disabilities to use them. The Fair Housing Act requires doors that are wide enough for wheelchairs to pass through; kitchens and bathrooms with enough space to allow persons in wheelchairs to use the appliances, sinks, toilets and bathtubs; and accessible routes that allow persons in wheelchairs to get into and move around apartments and public and common use areas without climbing steps or going up steeply sloped sidewalks.
"We continue to place a high priority on assuring that persons with disabilities have the same opportunities to rent apartments and buy condominiums as everyone else," said Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "When architects, developers, contractors and civil engineers fail to design and construct housing so it is accessible, they effectively take that housing off the market for people who have, or who will develop, a disability."
In this lawsuit, numerous violations of the accessibility requirements are alleged, such as doors that are too narrow for wheelchairs, steps and thresholds that are barriers to access, and kitchens and bathrooms that do not have enough space to allow persons in wheelchairs to move around and use the rooms as other people do.
This lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by Legal Aid of Western Missouri. HUD referred the case to the Justice Department after conducting an investigation that revealed multiple violations of the Fair Housing Act's accessibility requirements. The Department filed suit when settlement efforts proved fruitless.
"As we commemorate Fair Housing Month, today's announcement illustrates the Administration's commitment to expanding housing opportunities for people with disabilities," said Kenneth Marcus, General Deputy Assistant Secretary for HUD's office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "We hope today's action will encourage all developers and architects to comply with the law."
The Justice Department is seeking a court order requiring the defendants to make Ridgeview and Indian Meadows accessible to persons with disabilities, to compensate persons with disabilities whose rights have been violated, and to pay punitive damages and civil penalties to deter future violations of the law. Dominium Management Services, Inc., the property manager for the two apartment complexes, is named as a necessary party to the lawsuit because its services and facilities may be required for the implementation of a remedy.
Persons who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination elsewhere should contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development at (800) 669-9777. Additional information is available on HUD's website at www.hud.gov and the Justice Department website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing.