Man wins rent for life in disability suit

Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs

Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington & Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs Announce a Landmark Settlement of Civil Rights Lawsuit against Wheaton Place Apartments in Silver Spring, its principal owner, Ralph D. Rocks, and Allen & Rocks, Inc. on the basis of disability. The Consent Order, filed in June, in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, represents the largest settlement to date in the nation filed by a private fair housing agency and an individual victim of housing discrimination based on disability.

Plaintiff Jack Wright to receive a two bedroom apartment at Wheaton Place at no cost for life - estimated by the defendants to have a lifetime value of $340,000 and a present value of $169,000. Defendants have also agreed to injunctive relief, to develop a reasonable accommodation policy, and to affirmatively market their units to people with disabilities, and to a mandatory fair housing training and policy statement.

Background information: Jack Wright, a Montgomery County resident who is deaf and blind and has Usher's Syndrome, applied to live at Wheaton Place Apartments located in Silver Spring, Maryland in January of 1993. The complex was perfect for Mr. Wright due to its convenience to public transportation and shopping. Jack Wright made it clear to the rental agent at the apartment complex that he was capable of independent living, and even offered to pay in advance the full expenses of one year's rent.

The agent refused Mr. Wright's offer, citing that the apartment complex does not have any facilities for the handicapped, and recommended a nearby complex that did have such facilities.

In a Federal lawsuit filed in December of 1994, plaintiff Wright and Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington argued that the apartment complex, and its managers and owners intentionally discriminated against Mr. Wright by denying him a unit due to his disability and by steering him to alternate housing in violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act.