The Justice Department announced last week that the developer and owners of eight senior living complexes in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee have agreed to pay $450,000 to settle claims that they violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to build these properties with required accessible features for people with disabilities. As part of the settlement, the defendants agreed to make substantial retrofits to remove accessibility barriers at the complexes, including more than 1,500 units.
Under the consent order that was approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Dominion Management LLC and its affiliate companies will pay all costs related to the retrofits, $400,000 into a settlement fund to compensate individuals harmed by the inaccessible housing, and $50,000 in civil penalties to the government. The defendants also will undergo training, ensure that any future construction complies with federal accessibility laws, and make periodic reports to the Justice Department.
This matter originated when the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee learned of potential accessibility barriers at Somerby Franklin, the Dominion-built property in Franklin, Tennessee.
“All people deserve equal access to housing, including people with disabilities. The Justice Department stands ready to vigorously enforce federal laws to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The agreement requires comprehensive corrections that will make the properties accessible for the senior citizens and people with disabilities who live there so that they can more fully enjoy their homes.”
“Today’s resolution ensures that a substantial number of persons with disabilities have accessible and safe living spaces,” said U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona for the Northern District of Alabama. “Our office will continue to work tirelessly to enforce the Fair Housing Act, and to see that its promise is met.”
“This settlement will lead to overdue property improvements which will serve to improve the quality of life for many elderly and disabled residents,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Mary Jane Stewart for the Middle District of Tennessee. “The FHA and the ADA exist, among other reasons, to prevent these kinds of obstacles from interfering with the daily activities of protected classes of residents. We will continue to vigorously investigate these types of complaints and take appropriate action to resolve issues which may run afoul of civil rights statutes.”
Under the settlement, the defendants will, among other things, create accessible pedestrian walkways to the leasing office and site amenities, install accessible curb cuts and parking, and modify kitchens and bathrooms at these senior living complexes:
- Fleming Farms, Huntsville (Alabama)
- Somerby St. Vincent’s One Nineteen, Birmingham (Alabama)
- Somerby Peachtree City (Georgia)
- Somerby Sandy Springs (Georgia)
- Westside, Alpharetta (Georgia)
- Somerby Santa Rosa Beach (Florida)
- Somerby Mount Pleasant (South Carolina)
- Somerby Franklin (Tennessee)
Individuals who are entitled to share in the settlement fund will be identified through a process established in the consent order. Persons who believe that they or their family members were subjected to unlawful discrimination at any of these complexes should contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-833-591-0291, select option 1 for English; select option 4 for housing accessibility for persons with disabilities; and select option 2 for Dominion Management LLC to leave a voice message or e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex and familial status. The FHA requires all multifamily housing constructed after March 13, 1991, to have basic accessible features. Enacted in 1990, the ADA requires that places of public accommodation, such as rental offices at multifamily complexes designed and constructed for first occupancy after Jan. 26, 1993, be accessible to persons with disabilities. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals may report disability discrimination or other forms of housing discrimination by calling the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, or submitting a report online at http://civilrights.justice.gov/. Individuals also may report discrimination by contacting the Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777, or by filing a complaint online.
This case was handled by Trial Attorney Julie Allen, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen Bowden McIntyre from Middle District of Tennessee and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Cheek from the Northern District of Alabama.