IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
PACIFIC LIFE INSURANCE CO., f/d/b/a
THE SUMMIT AT NEWFOREST;
SERVICES OF AMERICA and
SENIOR HOUSING SERVICES, INC.,
d/b/a NEWFOREST ESTATES
The United States of America alleges:
1. This action is brought by the United States to enforce the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (Fair Housing Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.
2. This Court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1345 and 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).
3. Venue is proper in this District. A substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, and a substantial part of the property that is the subject of this action is situated, in the Western District of Texas.
4. From on or about May 1, 2002 until June 30, 2003, Defendant Pacific Life Insurance Company owned and did business as The Summit at Newforest ("Newforest"), a multi-family retirement community located in San Antonio, Texas.
5. From on or about May 1, 2002 until June 30, 2003, Defendant Cooperative Retirement Services of America ("CRSA") managed the operation of Newforest and leased the apartment units there.
6. From on or about June 30, 2003 until the present, Defendant Senior Housing Services ("SHS"), has owned Newforest, but changed its name and does business as Newforest Estates Retirement Community (which will continue to be referred to as "Newforest").
7. At all times relevant to this Complaint, Newforest has been a retirement community consisting of eight buildings containing 198 apartment units with several elevators and extensive common use areas.
8. Newforest is a "dwelling" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).
9. In late 2001, Defendants Pacific Life and CRSA began using an "Occupancy Agreement" with a provision that requires tenants to be ambulatory without assistance from others, to not be in need of routine assistance or supervision from others, and to be able to live safely without assistance or health care, as a term or condition of tenancy at Newforest. Newforest has never provided assistive living services to its residents. Under this agreement, Defendants Pacific Life and CRSA denied housing at Newforest, for example, to tenants who were willing and able to independently provide their own assistive living services. As interpreted and applied by Pacific Life and CRSA, this provision was used unlawfully to deny housing and an equal opportunity to use and enjoy dwellings at Newforest to tenants or prospective tenants with disabilities, including persons who were not ambulatory or who received any type of routine assistance from any source.
10. Defendants Pacific Life and CRSA required all new and existing tenants to sign the Occupancy Agreement at Newforest as a condition of tenancy.
11. After adding this new provision to the Occupancy Agreement, Defendants Pacific Life and CRSA implemented the provision at Newforest in the following ways:
- Requiring existing tenants to submit to a medical assessment conducted by a Newforest employee as a term or condition of tenancy;
- Stating and enforcing a policy of limiting the number of hours that tenants may receive assistive services that are necessary because of their disability in their apartment units, including services that are arranged and paid for by such tenants;
- Imposing as a condition of tenancy that residents must be able to evacuate Newforest by themselves in the event of an emergency; and
- Discouraging tenants with a disability from continuing to reside at Newforest and steering tenants and prospective tenants with a disability to assisted living facilities because of their disability.
12. While implementing the above policies, Defendants Pacific Life and CRSA evicted or threatened to evict numerous residents with disabilities at Newforest. As a result, many of these tenants moved out of their apartments at Newforest, and other tenants lived in fear of, and experienced great stress about, the threatened evictions.
13. When Defendant SHS took ownership of Newforest, it continued for a period of time to require new tenants to sign the Occupancy Agreement described in paragraph 9 above as a condition of tenancy. Under Defendant SHS's current policy, all existing Occupancy Agreements at the time it took ownership as well as those Occupancy Agreements signed since it became owner will continue to remain in effect until they come up for renewal, at which time tenants will be required to sign a new "Residency Agreement," which came into use on or about June 2004.
14. The new Residency Agreement used by Defendant SHS at Newforest includes a provision that requires as a condition of tenancy that tenants live independently of management and that residents pledge that their "physical and mental health is suitable for an independent living community." It also allows Newforest to unilaterally evict a tenant should a tenant "develop a need for services and supportive assistance not available or appropriate at Newforest."
15. Defendant SHS requires all new tenants and those whose leases come up for renewal to sign the Resident Agreement at Newforest as a condition of tenancy.
16. Defendant SHS also implemented a policy at Newforest on or about May 25, 2004, that requires, inter alia, each resident who uses a motorized ambulatory aid to sign an agreement attached to the Resident Agreement obligating him or her to pay a $250 non-refundable property damage fee and assume all risk for the use and operation of the motorized ambulatory aid over the $250 fee.
17. Defendants Pacific Life and CRSA have discriminated against persons with disabilities in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq., by implementing and enforcing the Occupancy Agreement and the policies described in paragraphs 9-12, above.
18. Defendant SHS has discriminated against persons with disabilities in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq., by using and maintaining the Occupancy Agreement described in paragraphs 9 and 13 above and instituting the policies described in paragraphs 14-16 above.
19. The conduct of Defendants constitutes:
- A denial or making unavailable of housing because of disability, in violation of Section 804(f)(1) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1);
- Discrimination in the terms, conditions, or privileges of the rental of dwellings, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of disability, in violation of Section 804(f)(2) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2); and
- The making of statements with respect to the rental of dwellings that indicate a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on disability, in violation of Section 804(c) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c).
20. The conduct of Defendants constitutes:
- A pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.; and
- A denial to a group of persons of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., which denial raises an issue of general public importance.
21. There are persons who have been injured by, and have suffered damages as a result of, Defendants' conduct. All of these persons are aggrieved persons as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i).
22. Defendants' above-described conduct was intentional, willful, and/or taken in disregard for the rights of others.
WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter an ORDER that:
1. Declares that the Defendants' discriminatory practices violate the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.;
2. Enjoins the Defendants, their agents, employees, and successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with them from:
- Discriminating on the basis of disability against any person in any aspect of the rental of a dwelling;
- Interfering with or threatening to take any action against any person in the exercise or enjoyment of rights granted or protected by the Fair Housing Act, as amended; and
- Failing or refusing to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary to restore, as nearly as practicable, the victims of Defendants' past unlawful practices to the position such victims would have been in but for the discriminatory conduct of the Defendants;
3. Awards appropriate monetary relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B) to each person aggrieved by Defendants' discriminatory housing practices;
4. Assesses a civil penalty against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(C) in order to vindicate the public interest.
The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.
| JOHN ASHCROFT|
JOHNNY K. SUTTON
JOHN F. PANISZCZYN
Document Filed: December 22, 2004 > >