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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Justice Department Obtains $11.3 Million Settlement of Disability-Based Housing Discrimination Lawsuit in District of Columbia

The Justice Department today announced that it has settled a Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit against Defendants Mid-America Apartment Communities, Inc. and Mid-America Apartments, L.P. for $11.3 million to resolve allegations that these property owners failed to build 50 apartment complexes in six states and the District of Columbia with accessible features for persons with disabilities. 

Under the agreement, the defendants must spend $8.7 million to retrofit 36 properties that they currently own.  This amount is in addition to $2.4 million in retrofits that had been made to many of the properties after the United States brought suit.  The defendants must also pay $175,000 to compensate victims and up to $25,000 for accessibility retrofits at 14 properties they no longer own.  The defendants also agreed to undergo training, to construct any new multifamily housing in accordance with the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, and to provide periodic reports to the Justice Department. 

“The Justice Department is committed to ensuring that new multifamily housing is built with the accessible features that are required by law,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “This comprehensive settlement will ensure that equal housing opportunities are afforded to persons with disabilities.”

“The Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act ensure that persons with disabilities have access to housing, leasing offices, and related amenities,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to vigorously pursuing enforcement of the rights guaranteed by these laws. This settlement is an example of that commitment in the District of Columbia and elsewhere and serves to promote equal access to multi-family housing for persons with disabilities.”

The Fair Housing Act requires that multifamily housing constructed for first occupancy after Mar. 13, 1991, have basic accessible features; the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that places of public accommodations, such as rental offices, at multifamily housing built for first occupancy after Jan. 26, 1993, have accessible features. 

As alleged in the government’s complaint, the defendants built the properties at issue with significant barriers that inhibited access to the units and the associated public and common-use areas.  These barriers include routes to building entrances with steps and excessive slopes, units with electrical outlets and thermostats that are beyond the reach of persons who use wheelchairs, and kitchens and bathrooms with insufficient space for persons who use wheelchairs to maneuver.  The government filed the lawsuit in 2010 against Post Properties, Inc., Post Apartment Homes, L.P., and Post GP Holdings, Inc., which merged with the defendants in 2016.

The FHA prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. 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 may call the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov, or contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.

Updated November 21, 2018