People with disabilities cannot benefit from quality health care and other social services in the community if they don’t have places to live. They also cannot fully enjoy the rewards from working if they can’t find acceptable and accessible housing within the same community where they work.
Equal access to housing for persons with disabilities is an important right protected by federal law. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. The largest-ever disability-based housing discrimination settlement fund, announced by the Justice Department, resolves allegations that JPI Construction L.P. and six other JPI entities (collectively “JPI”) based in Irving, Texas, discriminated on the basis of disability in the design and construction of multifamily housing complexes throughout the United States.
Under the settlement, JPI will pay $10,250,000 into an accessibility fund to provide retrofits at properties built by JPI and to increase the stock of accessible housing in the communities where these properties are located. The settlement also requires JPI to pay a $250,000 civil penalty. This is the largest civil penalty the Justice Department has obtained in any Fair Housing Act case.
Builders of multifamily housing must consider accessibility at the outset, or they risk significantly greater expense to retrofit properties. As a result of this settlement, multifamily housing complexes will be retrofitted to comply with the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and persons with physical disabilities will be afforded an equal opportunity to live in and visit these properties.
The lawsuit was filed in March 2009, after the Justice Department conducted an investigation and found accessibility barriers at various JPI properties. Since 1991, JPI and its affiliates built 210 multifamily properties in 26 states and the District of Columbia.
In addition to the $10.5 million payment, the consent order prohibits JPI from discriminating on the basis of disability in the future and from interfering with or preventing the retrofitting that will take place at the JPI properties. Although JPI is no longer in the multifamily development and construction business, if JPI reenters the business, it is required to design and construct covered multifamily dwellings to fully comply with the requirements of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.