HUD Region VIII No. 12-002B
Contact: Charlene Guzman
October 4, 2012
HUD CHARGES OWNER, DEVELOPER AND BUILDER OF MONTANA APARTMENT
BUILDING WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES Stairs and other design features make 2 of 5 units inaccessible
MONTANA - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it is charging the owner, builder and developer of a five-unit Missoula, Montana, apartment building with housing discrimination for designing and constructing two of the five units in a way that makes them inaccessible to persons with disabilities. According to HUD’s charge, the two single-story units cannot be accessed without negotiating a flight of stairs.
The Fair Housing Act requires that multifamily housing structures built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, contain accessible features for persons with disabilities. The requirements include accessible common areas, bathrooms and kitchens, as well as wider doors and environmental controls that can be reached by persons who use wheelchairs. The failure to include these features violates the Fair Housing Act.
“For more than two decades, architects, designers, builders, and developers have had a legal obligation to comply with the Fair Housing Act’s design and construction requirements,” said Evelyn Meininger, HUD’s Region VIII Director for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD is committed to enforcing the nation’s fair housing laws and working to create more housing opportunities for people with disabilities.”
The two units came to HUD’s attention when Montana Fair Housing, Inc., a non-profit fair housing advocacy organization, filed a complaint with the Department contending that property owner and developer Anthony Boote, general contractor Red Dog Construction, LLC, and designer Charles J. Chandler had designed and constructed the units in a way that did not meet the needs of persons with disabilities, as required by the Fair Housing Act.
HUD’s investigation found that the units were further inaccessible because they have twist-knob door handles, doorways that aren’t wide enough to allow passage by a person using a wheelchair, thermostats that are not in accessible locations, and bathrooms that lack reinforcements necessary to allow the later installation of grab bars.
A United States Administrative Law Judge will hear the charge unless any party elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to the complainant. In addition, the judge may impose fines to vindicate the public interest, order injunctive and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, and require payment of attorney fees. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to the aggrieved persons.
HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate approximately 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they have experienced or witnessed unlawful housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), or 1-800-927-9275 (TTY). More information about fair housing rights is available at HUD’s website, www.hud.gov/fairhousing.
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