The decision in Miami Valley Fair Hous. Ctr., Inc. v. Preferred Living Real Est. Investments, LLC, 2018 WL 4690790 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 28, 2018) has the potential to create a significant change in how FHA design/build cases are litigated. It also provides litigants with a treatise on the most important evidentiary issues faced by both plaintiffs and defendants. The critical take-away for apartment owners and developers is that proof of deviations from the various FHA safe harbors is not conclusive evidence of an FHA violation. That means defendants who own or build apartments that are accessible but have technical deviations from FHA design/build safe harbors will be given the chance to talk about what matters to the disabled, that is, accessibility. More
Design Build Discrimination
In a March 27, 2017 ruling Judge Richard Leon of the D.C. Circuit found a safe harbor in the Fair Housing Act that I haven’t seen referred to in any earlier published opinion. See, U.S. v. Mid-America Apt. Communities, Inc., 2017 WL 1154944 (D.D.C. Mar. 27, 2017). In the defense of FHA design / build cases the emphasis is usually on the statutory safe harbor in 42 U.S.C. §3604(f)(4), the ANSI A117.1 standard, or in one of the similar safe harbors recognized by HUD in 24 CFR §100.205(e). However, there is also safe harbor language in 42 U.S.C. §3604(f)(5), which provides that:
(5)(A) If a State or unit of general local government has incorporated into its laws the requirements set forth in paragraph (3)(C), compliance with such laws shall be deemed to satisfy the requirements of that paragraph.
(B) A State or unit of general local government may review and approve newly constructed covered multifamily dwellings for the purpose of making determinations as to whether the design and construction requirements of paragraph (3)(C) are met. More
A victory for common sense: 11th Circuit FHA ruling rejects subsequent owner liability in multi-family housing
In a decision issued on April 14, 2014 the 11th Circuit provided a major victory for subsequent owners of apartments and other types multi-family housing. In Harding v. Orlando Apts. LLC, 748 F.3d 1128 (11th Cir. 2014) the Court dismissed the notion that merely owning or operating an apartment complex could create liability for a failure of the apartments to meet the FHA design standards. Following the best reasoning of scattered earlier district court decisions the Court found that the clear language of the FHA imposed design and construction liability only on those involved in the original design and construction, and that the general anti-discrimination provisions of the FHA did not create an ongoing duty to bring a multi-family development into compliance with the design standards. (See my blog of November 21, 2013 for background on the pending district court cases). More