Disabled Connecticut man wins $22,200 settlement in reasonable accommodation dispute with landlord

In August, the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) approved a $22,200 settlement to resolve a complaint based on a landlord’s failure to reasonably accommodate a physically disabled resident. The settlement includes $18,500 paid to the complainant and $3,700 for attorney fees. Additional relief includes a reserved parking space close to the building (and spaces for all other tenants with similar medical needs), automated doors in buildings, and the redesign of parking lots to create accessible parking on an accessible route.

Accessible spaces used by guests and staff forced disabled man to walk 200 feet to apartment

John J. McCarthy of Hamden, Connecticut asserted that he was denied a parking space close to the 217-unit senior living complex where he lived. McCarthy made a reasonable accommodation request for an accessible parking space due to his disabilities. Medical providers confirmed his spinal and hip impairments and supported his request. While there was ample tenant parking available at McCarthy’s building, it was often used by staff and guests, making accessible parking unavailable. This forced McCarthy to walk more than 200 feet from the street to his home. Building management even had McCarthy’s car towed at one point, because he had parked in a time-limited space after hip replacement surgery.

CHRO Investigator Patricia Christie settled the case between the parties after extensive mediation. The complaint was settled prior to a final determination being entered by the CHRO. The respondents denied wrongdoing in the case.

Davenport Residence, Inc., the complex owners, and Elderly Housing Management, Inc., the management company, agreed to have their Board members, agents and employees participate in fair housing training as part of the settlement. They will also receive special training regarding Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Further, they agreed to rewrite their reasonable accommodation policy for the approximately fifty elderly housing complexes they manage and to submit the rewritten policies to the CHRO for review prior to implementation.

Since the settlement, McCarthy has been harassed and intimidated. According to McCarthy, after the settlement was reached, the management company held a tenant meeting and informed the tenants of the changes that would be made to the parking lot and the electronic doors that would be installed. At the meeting, the management
attempted to blame McCarthy for the problems and hinted that rent amounts might rise,
because of the changes. McCarthy said that the management team was careful not to mention him specifically by name in the meeting but that several residents looked at him and mentioned his name during the meeting.

Since that meeting, asserts McCarthy, his car has been vandalized and he has received threatening postcards. McCarthy said that he has informed the police of the threats.

The CHRO has contacted the management and informed them to take action to stop the harassment and intimidation McCarthy is facing. According to McCarthy, the management company made one weak attempt to stop the harassment. “They posted a sheet of stationary with no title to an obscure bulletin board printed in small type, stating that I had the right to file a discrimination complaint,” he said. “The emphasis was placed on me rather than the obligations of the owner and management of Davenport-Dunbar to follow the fair housing law.” McCarthy informed the CHRO of the notice and said that Christie has written to the respondents’ attorney advising that the respondents could face additional complaints if they do not take better action to stop the harassment. McCarthy said the “obscure notice” was quickly removed.

For his part, McCarthy remains satisfied with the case’s outcome. “The action resulted in the freeing up of 20 or 21 parking spaces for residents with disabilities that
had been usurped by guests and employees.”

Older buildings and those that receive federal assistance must comply with disability laws

Although Davenport-Dunbar Residence was built prior to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the federal funding it previously received and the project-based Section 8 funding
it currently receives obligate the owner and management company to use accessibility standards outlined in the Rehabilitation Act and to pay for reasonable modifications
needed by tenants. The accessibility requirements in the building’s design are also covered under the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968. Additionally, the owners and
management companies of all multifamily housing must provide reasonable accommodations and modifications under the disability provisions of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988.

For more information about this settlement, contact the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities at (860) 541-3403.