Justice Department Files Lawsuit Alleging Disability-Based Discrimination in North Dakota Housing
The Department of Justice announced today that it filed a lawsuit alleging that Hampton Corporation Inc. and several other individuals and entities violated the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to design and construct multifamily residential properties and an associated rental office in North Dakota so that they are accessible to people with disabilities.
Along with its lawsuit, the department submitted to the court a partial consent decree resolving claims against the architect and engineer involved in the design of one of the four apartment complexes at issue in the lawsuit: Hepper Olson Architects LTD, and Pribula Engineering PLLC.
“When dwellings are designed and constructed without complying with the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility protections, people suffer,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will work to ensure that individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to live in and enjoy their homes safely.”
“Serious accessibility violations that make life more difficult for many North Dakotans with disabilities must be remedied—that is our firm commitment, as we do the important work of enforcing the promises made in the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Drew Wrigley, U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota.”
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, alleges that significant physical accessibility barriers exist at four developments and a rental office designed and constructed by Hampton Corporation Inc.; Daniel Stauss; Scott Stauss; Steeple Apts LLC; HDD Inc.; and Times Square Townhomes II Inc. These barriers include, among other violations, steps or excessive slopes leading to unit entrances from sidewalks and other public use areas; insufficiently wide openings at interior doors that make them inaccessible for many persons with mobility impairments; inadequate interior space to maneuver a wheelchair; and inaccessible parking. The accessibility violations exist at 116 units constructed over an approximately 15 year period.
The properties with alleged violations are the following:
- Townhomes at Charleswood, located at 1908 Burlington Drive in West Fargo, North Dakota;
- Carrington Court Townhouse Apartments, located at 3383 Primrose Court in Grand Forks, North Dakota;
- South Hampton Townhomes, located at 3174, 3274, and 3374 36th Avenue South in Grand Forks, North Dakota;
- Steeples Apartments, located at 2850 and 2950 36th Avenue South in Grand Forks, North Dakota; and
- The rental office serving Carrington Court Townhouse Apartments, South Hampton Townhomes, and Steeples Apartments, located at 3001 36th Avenue South in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting Hampton Corporation and the other defendants from designing or constructing future residential properties in a manner that discriminates against persons with disabilities. The lawsuit also seeks an order requiring the defendants to make physical modifications to the properties to bring them into compliance with the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act; to provide monetary damages to people harmed by the lack of accessibility at the properties; and to pay civil penalties. The partial consent decree requires, among other provisions, that Hepper Olson Architects and Pribula Engineering contribute to a fund to pay monetary compensation to individuals harmed because of the accessibility violations and that Hepper Olson Architects contribute to a fund to pay for modifications to inaccessible features at the buildings.
The Justice Department, through the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Civil Rights Division, enforces the FHA, which prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Among other protections, the FHA requires that all multifamily housing constructed after March 13, 1991, have basic physical accessibility features, including, among other things, accessible routes without steps to all single-story, ground-floor units and to all units in a building served by an elevator. The ADA protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in public accommodations, including the rental office at issue in this case. The full and fair enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act and their mandates to integrate individuals with disabilities is a major priority of the Civil Rights Division.
More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at email@example.com, or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777, or through its website at https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp.
The complaint contains allegations of unlawful conduct. The allegations in the complaint must be proven in court. Persons who believe they may have been harmed by inaccessible features at any of the above properties should contact the Department of Justice at 1-800-896-7743 Ex. 9994.