The Court’s principal holding is the obvious but often overlooked rule the various safe harbors for the design and construction of multi-family dwellings are a shield, not a sword. In Miami Valley the plaintiffs produced a typical expert report in this kind of case. It listed several hundred supposed accessibility barriers based on deviations from the original FHA Guidelines promulgated by HUD in 1991 along with the assertion that because the Guidelines are the least restrictive of the HUD recognized safe harbors the apartments did not meet any safe harbor standard. Based on this evidence the plaintiffs sought summary judgment. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA, ADA - drive-by litigation, ADA - serial litigation, ADA Attorney's Fees, FHA, FHA design/build litigation, FHA renovation, First Fix Then Fight Tags: ADA defense, Cyber Monday, FHA Defense
That’s right, it’s Cyber Monday. Interestingly enough there have been no ADA web access decisions since my last Quick Hits blog, but there are still a few developments of interest.
The long road from an interesting partial victory to a final settlement.
I blogged about States v. Mid-America Apartment Comms., Inc., 247 F. Supp. 3d 30, 36 (D.D.C. Mar. 27, 2017) last year.* The case was interesting because the defendant got a preliminary ruling suggesting that a certificate of occupancy based on a building code that incorporated FHA standards could be a defense to a claim under 28 USC §3604(f)(3)(C) for failure to properly design and construct multi-family housing. The potential for this defense was recognized in Miami Valley Fair Hous. Ctr., Inc. v. Preferred Living Real Est. Investments, LLC, 2018 WL 4690790, at *8 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 28, 2018) but found premature in a summary judgment context. Then, on November 21 of this year the Department of Justice announced a multi-million dollar settlement with Mid-America. I was interested in what happened between the 2017 ruling and the 2018 settlement, so I reviewed the case file to see if anything of interest to other defendants might appear. More
Guidance from HUD and DOJ is nice to have, but ultimately the courts are responsible for deciding what the Fair Housing Act means. In Fair Hous. Rights Ctr. in Se. Pennsylvania v. Post Goldtex GP, LLC, 2016 WL 2865733 (3d Cir. May 17, 2016) the Third Circuit confirmed HUD and DOJ’s position that FHA accessibility standards do not apply to pre-1991 buildings, even if they have been for the first time converted to residential use. This will help urban project developers who want to preserve historic structures but find it impossible to make new residences meet all of the FHA accessibility guidelines. More