Rochester, NY- Blueberry Hill Apartments, located in the Town of Chili, will pay $300,000 to persons with disabilities for not making its new construction multifamily housing facility fully accessible. The terms of the settlement require the apartment complex to: pay $75,000 to the plaintiffs in the case; set aside $225,000 for a settlement fund to compensate persons who have been harmed by the lack of accessible features at the complex; publish a public notice of the settlement fund to possible victims; pay a $3,000 civil penalty to the United States; notify all agents and employees involved in the design, construction, rental, or sale of covered multifamily dwellings of the settlement, undergo fair housing training, make modifications to interior and exterior of complex and retrofit 120 ground floor units.
Under the Fair Housing Act, in apartment complexes and condominiums with four or more units and no elevator that are built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, the ground-floor units must include accessible common and public use areas such as parking lots; walkways; recreational areas; clubhouses; accessible routes into and through the dwelling; doors wide enough to accommodate persons who use wheelchairs; outlets and environmental controls at accessible heights; bathroom walls that have reinforcements for the installation of grab bars; as well as bathrooms and kitchens that are large enough for people who use wheelchairs to maneuver within them. Blueberry Hill Apartment Complex, built in 1994, was not in compliance with the Act although claimed to be fully accessible to wheelchair user Mr. Osborn, a man disabled from a stroke.
Mr. Osborn and his adult daughter had arranged to lease an apartment over the phone from California, where he previously resided. When he and his daughter arrived it became apparent that the apartment complex was not conducive to his reasonable needs. Blueberry Hill Apartments failed to design and construct the complex as required by the Fair Housing Act. Further, in not making the requested modifications for Mr. Osborn when asked, they discriminated against the Osborns because of handicap, thus a violation of the Fair Housing Act, both in the rental of a dwelling and in the terms, conditions or privileges of rental of a dwelling.
This case began when the local Fair Housing Enforcement Project, a program of Monroe County Legal Assistance Corporation, filed a complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1999 on behalf of the Osborns. Ensuring that all Americans live in safe, affordable and accessible housing is one of HUDs highest missions, said Marisel Morales, HUD Regional Director for New York & New Jersey. This settlement agreement, which provides financial compensation to the Osborn family among other remedies, surely demonstrates that owners of multifamily developments must take their Fair Housing responsibilities seriously or face the consequences of their actions.
HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity conducted an investigation and issued a Charge of Discrimination-indicating that there was reasonable cause to believe the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act. Defendants elected to have the case heard in federal court and the US Department of Justice filed the complaint in federal court on behalf of the Osborns and the United States as a pattern and practice case.
Persons in Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne and Yates Counties who believe that their apartment complex or condominium development was not designed or constructed in accordance with the Fair Housing Act, or who believe that they have been otherwise discriminated against on the basis of disability, familial status, gender, religion, national origin, color or race may contact MCLACs Fair Housing Enforcement Project at 585-325-2500 or 1-866-671-FAIR.