Acting U.S. Attorney Settles Civil Rights Suit Against Westchester Property Management Company And Cooperative Building For Discriminating On The Basis Of Disability
Defendants to Pay $125,000 in Damages and Penalties, Adopt Reasonable Accommodation Policies and Implement Training Programs
Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit against Defendants WEST-EX ASSOCIATES, INC. (“West-Ex”), and 505 CENTRAL AVENUE CORP. (“505 Central Ave.”), for discriminating on the basis of disability and refusing to provide reasonable accommodations, as required by the Fair Housing Act.
Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “Every member of our society is entitled to equal access to housing and the independence and dignity that it provides. With this resolution, we again emphasize that condos, cooperatives, landlords, and property managers must provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities.”
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate in the terms and conditions of the sale or rental of, or to otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling based on the prospective buyer or renter’s disability. The law also mandates that reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, and services be provided when necessary to afford equal opportunity to housing to persons with disabilities.
According to the allegations in the Complaint, filed in January 2017, 505 Central Ave. maintains a 155-unit housing cooperative located in White Plains called Thompkins Manor. West-Ex acts as 505 Central Ave.’s property management company, and handles applications for housing at Thompkins Manor. Between August 2013 and July 2014, West-Ex and 505 Central Ave. repeatedly denied the application of a 34-year-old individual (the “Complainant”) to purchase a one-bedroom unit at Thompkins Manor based on his disabilities. The Complainant has suffered numerous heart attacks and lives with congenital heart problems, developmental language disorder, learning disorders, and depression. The Complainant and his family requested that ownership of his unit be placed under a legal trust, which would assist the Complainant in managing the requirements of cooperative housing. West-Ex and 505 Central Ave. unlawfully rejected this reasonable accommodation request on numerous occasions, summarily and without adequate explanation. The Complaint further alleges that West-Ex, which acts as a management company for numerous other properties in Westchester County, engaged in a pattern and practice of discriminatory conduct by maintaining a stated policy of not considering requests for reasonable accommodations by applicants like the Complainant. Following Defendants’ unlawful denial of the Complainant’s application for housing, the Complainant was forced to continue living in a boarding house with abysmal conditions, grew increasingly depressed, and suffered another heart attack.
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Under the terms of the Settlement Agreement, filed yesterday with an order resolving the case entered by U.S. District Judge Nelson S. Román, West-Ex and 505 Central Ave. must:
- Pay a total of $125,000, including compensatory damages and attorney’s fees to the Complainant and civil penalties to the United States;
- Adopt reasonable accommodation policies and application forms approved by the United States, which must be included with all future applications for housing handed out to prospective buyers; and
- Provide annual training regarding the Fair Housing Act and reasonable accommodation policies to all current and future employees and agents.
In addition, 505 Central Ave. must only employ property management companies with adequate reasonable accommodation policies in place, and West-Ex may not take any action as property manager for any other property that violates its newly adopted reasonable accommodation policy.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Cha-Kim is in charge of the case.