NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Civil Action No. 00C 2295
THE BIGELOW GROUP, INC.,
The United States files this Consent Decree simultaneously with its Complaint against The Bigelow Group, Inc. (Bigelow) alleging violations of Section 804(f)(3)(C) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(C), as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619 (the Act).
Defendant Bigelow is the developer of Summer Wind Townhomes (Summer Wind), a development consisting of multi-family dwellings located at 1302 Oak Street, North Aurora, Illinois. The United States' Complaint alleges that the defendant has engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against persons with disabilities by failing to design and construct Summer Wind with the features of accessible and adaptable design set forth in 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(C). Defendant disputes the United States' allegations.
When construction is completed, Summer Wind will consist of 286 townhouse units, sixteen (16) of which will be one-story townhomes that are "covered units" within the meaning of the Act. 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(7)(A).
The Act requires that covered units include certain basic accessibility and adaptability design features intended to make housing usable or adaptable by a person who is or who becomes disabled.
The design requirements under the Act include: (a) public use and common use areas that are readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities; (b) doors designed to allow passage into and within all premises that are sufficiently wide to allow passage by persons in 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.
The United States alleges that as originally designed and constructed, neither the common use areas nor any of the covered units at Summer Wind complied with the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(C). For instance, the United States alleges in its Complaint that, as originally designed and constructed: (1) some of the public and common areas are not readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities; (2) the routes into some of the dwellings are made inaccessible because of the presence of steps or high thresholds; (3) the sliding glass doors in the some of the individual units are not sufficiently wide to allow passage by persons in wheelchairs; (4) some of the electrical outlets are in inaccessible locations; and (5) there are no reinforcements in bathroom walls to allow for later installation of grab bars. In November 1996, the United States contacted Summer Wind regarding the violations of the Fair Housing Act it had found. At that point, Summer Wind had already constructed part of the public use and common areas, as well as nine (9) "covered" units according to its original design. Thereafter, Summer Wind worked with the United States to remedy the majority of the violations the United States alleged existed at Summer Wind by partially retrofitting the public use and common areas and revising its plans for the remaining "covered" condominium or townhouse units yet to be constructed.
The parties agree that this Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this case. The parties agree that the controversy should be resolved without further proceedings and without an evidentiary hearing. Therefore, the parties have consented to the entry of this Consent Decree as indicated by the signatures appearing below.
It is, therefore, hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED:
- GENERAL INJUNCTION
Defendant, its officers, employees, agents, successors and assigns and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them are permanently enjoined from discriminating on the basis of disability as prohibited by the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(C), and as set forth in the Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines, 56 Fed. Reg. 9472 (1991) (the Guidelines).
- CORRECTIVE ACTIONS
- Revision of Design Plans for the Covered Units
As discussed above, after being contacted by the United States, Summer Wind revised its design plans for the remaining seven (7) covered units constructed at Summer Wind. The parties agree that the seven (7) units constructed pursuant to the revised plans will substantially satisfy the requirements of the Fair Housing Act set forth at 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(C) and the Guidelines.
- Guidelines for Remaining Units
The Government contends that the nine (9) already constructed and sold covered units do not meet the standards of the Act and the Guidelines. Because these units are fully constructed, there are significant practical, structural, and cost impediments to bringing these units into compliance with the Act. To address the claims of the United States, defendants will give annual notice for three years to the owners of the nine (9) units (pursuant to the procedures set forth in Section IV, infra) of their opportunity to have either or both of the following retrofits performed to their units: (1) remove the steps leading to their unit and (2) reinforcing bathroom walls for later installation of grab bars. The total potential cost of these retrofits is $4500 (FORTY FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS). If any such owner requests one or both of these modifications, defendants shall promptly make the modification requested, at no expense to the owner, within a reasonable time period. Defendants have also agreed to take the actions set forth in Sections III through VII below. These actions are reasonable and practicable and will increase the number of housing units on the market with features of accessible and adaptable design.
- Assurance that Public Use and Common Areas Comply with the Act.
Defendant has retrofitted the playground area to bring it into compliance with the accessibility provisions of the Act.
- NON-DISCRIMINATION IN FUTURE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
Every year, for a period of three (3) years from the date of entry of this Consent Decree, defendant Bigelow shall, regarding any covered, multi-family dwellings intended to be developed or built by defendant Bigelow, submit to counsel for the United States (1)
the following information: the name of the architect and site engineer, the name and address of the project, a description of the project and the individual units, and a statement by a licensed architect with knowledge of the requirements of § 3604(f)(3)(C) of the Act describing his or her knowledge and training in the field of accessible design and certifying that he/she has reviewed such plans and that the plans include design specifications that fully comply with the requirements of the Act and the Guidelines to the best of his or her knowledge.
- NOTICE TO OWNERS OF NON-COMPLYING UNITS
Defendant shall provide notice to all owners of the nine (9) covered units at Summer Wind of the opportunity to have either or both of the retrofits listed in Paragraph II (B) above, by sending the letter attached as Appendix A, (Notification Letter), to the mailing address for each such unit. The Notification Letter shall be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, and shall be accompanied by a release form, Appendix B, and a copy of this Consent Decree. The Notification Letter shall be sent within thirty (30) days after entry of the Consent Decree, and on an annual basis thereafter for the next three (3) years.
- EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM
Within thirty (30) days of the date of entry of this Consent Decree, defendant Bigelow shall provide to all its employees and agents involved in the design and construction of multi-family dwellings covered by the Act: (1) a copy of this Consent Decree; and (2) instruction on (i) the terms of this Consent Decree, (ii) the requirements of the Act with a particular emphasis on the Act's design and construction requirements, and (iii) their responsibilities and obligations under each. The training shall be conducted by a qualified person or organization approved by the United States. Any expenses associated with this training shall be borne by defendant Bigelow. Each new employee and agent retained by defendant Bigelow involved in the design and construction of multi-family dwellings during the term of this Decree must comply with the above requirements within sixty (60) days after the date he or she commences an employment, agency or contractual relationship with defendant Bigelow. Within thirty (30) days of the completion of the training, defendant Bigelow shall secure and deliver to counsel for the United States a signed statement from each such employee or agent that he or she has received, read, and understands this Decree and has attended the fair housing program.
- NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC OF DEFENDANT'S NON-DISCRIMINATION POLICY
Within ten (10) days of the date of entry of this Consent Decree, defendant Bigelow shall post and prominently display in the sales or rental offices of all covered multi-family housing owned or operated by it, a sign no smaller than ten (10) by fourteen (14) inches indicating that all dwellings are available for sale or rental on a nondiscriminatory basis. Defendant Bigelow shall also post such a sign in the sales or rental office of any other covered multi-family housing developed or acquired by it during the effective period of this Consent Decree within ten (10) days of commencing construction. A poster that comports with 24 C.F.R. Part 110 will satisfy this requirement.
In addition, for the duration of this Consent Decree, in all future advertising in newspapers, and on pamphlets, brochures and other promotional literature regarding any covered, multi-family dwellings designed or constructed by defendant Bigelow, defendant shall place, in a conspicuous location, a statement that the dwelling units meet the accessibility features for persons with disabilities required by the federal Fair Housing Act.
- REPORTING AND DOCUMENT RETENTION REQUIREMENTS
- Sixty (60) days after the entry of this Consent Decree, defendant shall submit to counsel for the United States an initial report containing the following:
- a certification listing the names and addresses of the current owners at Summer Wind to whom the Notification Letter has been sent and from whom a return receipt has been received (see Section IV); and
- signed statements of current employees, agents, and contractors who have completed the educational program (see Section V).
- Annually, for three (3) years after the entry of this Consent Decree, defendant shall submit to counsel for the United States a report containing the following:
- documents containing information and certifications for new construction (see Section III);
- a certification listing the names and addresses of persons at Summer Wind to whom the Notification Letter has been sent and from whom a return receipt has been received during the most recent reporting period (see Section IV); and
- signed statements of new employees and agents who have completed the educational program during the most recent reporting period (see Section V).
- Defendant shall advise counsel for the United States in writing within forty-five (45) days of receipt of any written administrative or legal complaint against it, or against any of its employees or agents, regarding equal opportunity in housing. Defendant shall also promptly provide the United States all information it may request concerning any such complaint.
- For the term of this Consent Decree, defendant is required to preserve all records related to this Consent Decree, for all covered dwellings designed, constructed, owned, operated, or acquired by it. Upon reasonable notice to the defendant, representatives of the United States shall be permitted to inspect and copy any non-privileged or otherwise protected records of defendant or inspect any developments or residential units under defendant's control covered by the Act bearing on compliance with this Consent Decree at any and all reasonable times; provided, however, that the United States shall endeavor to minimize any inconvenience to defendant from such inspections.
- DURATION OF DECREE AND TERMINATION OF LEGAL ACTION
- This Consent Decree shall remain in effect for three and one-half (3 ½) years after the date of its entry.
- The United States' Complaint shall be dismissed without prejudice to the right of the United States to petition the Court, at any time during the duration of this Decree, to reopen the case for the purpose of enforcing the Decree. The parties to this Consent Decree shall endeavor in good faith to resolve informally any differences regarding interpretation of and compliance with this Decree prior to bringing such matters to the Court for resolution.
- TIME FOR PERFORMANCE
Any time limits for performance imposed by this Consent Decree may be extended by the mutual agreement of the parties.
- COSTS OF LITIGATION
Each party to this litigation will bear its own costs and attorney's fees associated with this litigation.
It is so ORDERED this _[6th]_ day of _[February]_, 2000.
United States District Judge
Agreed to by the parties as indicated by the signatures of counsel below.
FOR THE UNITED STATES:
Joan A. Magagna
Timothy J. Moran
United States Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
P.O. Box 65998
Washington, D.C. 20035-5998
FOR DEFENDANT THE BIGELOW GROUP, INC.:
Meltzer, Purtill & Stelle
151 East Woodfield Road
Schaumburg, IL 60173-5431
1. For purposes of this Decree, counsel for the United States is Chief, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, Civil Rights Division, United States Department of Justice, P. O. Box 65998, Washington, D.C. 20035-5998, Attn: DJ# 175-23-658.
Document Entered: February 5, 2001. > >