On July 1 the Department of Justice announced the filing of another lawsuit challenging what it calls discrimination based on the refusal to allow a therapy animal without a pet deposit. U.S. v Barber, 3:13-05539 (W.D. Wash). Coming on the heels of HUD’s April 25 “Notice Concerning Service Animals and Assistance Animal” the lawsuit is another reminder that this particular FHA violation is of special interest to the government regulatory agencies. It also suggests that apartment owners and managers need to tread carefully and think clearly about how they approach requests for assistance animals. After all, there is no animal more dangerous than a lawyer with a plausible claim. More
By richardhunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA FHA General, ADA FHA Litigation General, Condominiums, FHA, Multi-Family, Residential Development Tags: Apartments, architects, Condominiums, contractors, FHA Litigation
On April 30, 2013 HUD and the Department of Justice issued a “Joint Statement” concerning FHA issues. It includes some straightforward tips about compliance with the FHA, but also includes some examples of how these agencies pick and choose among statutes and regulations in ways that might be hard to predict.
The first example is found in item 59. Both HUD and DOJ reject the 9th Circuit’s understanding of the statute of limitations in FHA cases although it is the highest court authority on the issue. In Garcia v. Brockway, 526 F.3d 456 (9th Cir. 2008) the Ninth Circuit held that design/build claims under the FHA accrued for limitations purposes when the project was completed. This result can be avoided only by alleging a continuing practice of discrimination (see cases cited in National Fair Housing Alliance, Inc. v. HHHunt Corp., 2013 WL 335877 (W.D.Va. 2013)). Despite this, HUD flatly states that it will accept complaints based on its own interpretation of the law. More
Hoarding is a disability that creates special problems for landlords. Hoarders are often secretive, and by its very nature the activity often does not become apparent until it is reached the point where there is a health or safety risk. In addition, a reasonable accomodation may still require that the tenant take affirmative action that is both difficult and possibly expensive. Dealing with the reasonable accommodation requirements of the Fair Housing Act under these circumstances requires special care.
A case from District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Douglas v. Kriegsfeld, 884 A.2d 1109 (D.C.App. 2005) illustrates what not to do it. The tenant More
On April 30, 2008 a group of institutional plaintiffs sued a collection of architects and owners of mixed use properties claiming violations of the accessibility provisions of the Fair Housing Act. Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc. et al v. Steiner + Associates, Inc. et al, Case No. 3:08-cv-00150 (S.D. Ohio). More than four years later, on December 10, 2012, the parties entered into a stipulated judgment that called for an agreed scope of remediation of the three properties named in the original complaint. The case is an example of what I think of as the “too big to finish” problem in FHA litigation. The case as filed was so big, and included so many parties, that it became a procedural quagmire instead of an efficient means to resolve accessibility problems.
In September of 2008, five months after the case was filed the parties all requested that the Court stay the litigation while their respective experts inspected the properties at issue. The stay was extended for an additional 90 days by a stipulation filed on January 29, 2009. It isn’t clear what the delays accomplished, but on August 8, 2009, more than a year after the case was filed, the Court finally entered a pre-trial order setting the case for trial in December of 2010. More
By richardhunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA FHA General, ADA FHA Litigation General, Apartments, Condominiums, FHA, Multi-Family, Retail, Shopping Centers Tags: ada litigation, Apartments, Condominiums, FHA Litigation
On March 7 of this year the District Court for Colorado granted a summary judgment in a class action challenging the design of the front porch at the entrance of most Hollister stores. Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition v. Abercrombie & Fitch Co., 2013 WL 856510 (D.Colo. 2013). There are several good discussions of the merits of the case, including Julie Mills’ blog at juliesmills.typepad.com, but what struck me was the irony of the fact that the first thing a disabled shopper encounters at a Hollister store isn’t very welcoming. Of course this nationwide class is enough to get anyone’s attention, but it has one thing in common with the vast majority of ADA and FHA cases concerning physical barriers to access. They all seem to start at the front door. More