Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. (BNI) settled a ground-breaking lawsuit involving handicap discrimination when a major real estate developer agreed to pay $65,000 to make significant changes in one development, and to guarantee access for disabled people in its future developments.
BNI had filed suit against a Timonium MD, based developer who was constructing a large apartment complex without providing access for the disabled, as required by the Fair Housing Act of 1988. The suit was on behalf of Keith Small, a 24-year-old man who uses a wheelchair and who had reserved an apartment at the development.
He discovered that not one of the main entrances to the eight buildings in the development was accessible to a person in a wheelchair, that interior common and public spaces were inaccessible, and that many appliances and fixtures within the apartments could not be used by a disabled person.
This case is believed to be the first in the country involving application of the provisions of the Fair Housing Act regarding accessibility of buildings constructed after March 1991.
Units Must Be Accessible
The Fair Housing Act requires that first-floor apartments in multi-family structures with more than four units constructed after March 13, 1991, be fully accessible to the disabled and be designed to meet their needs. These requirements were clearly not met in this case.
In the settlement agreement, Kilree Corporation, the developer, agreed to pay the plaintiffs $65,000 and to change the main entrances to buildings still under construction so that they are fully accessible to the disabled. Kilree also agreed that all future ground-floor apartments in multifamily dwellings built by it or its affiliates will be similarly accessible. Also, the interior features of the apartments are being modified to meet the needs of the disabled.