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
Contribution, Indemnity and Disability – Does the FHA make sense?
By Richard Hunt in ADA FHA Litigation General, ADA indemnity contribution, FHA indemnity contribution, Residential Development Tags: AECOM, Cherokee Meadows, Equal Rights Center, FHA contribution, FHA enforcement, FHA Indemnity, non-delegable duty
Last week’s decision in Shaw v. Cherokee Meadows, LP, 17-CV-610-GKF-JFJ, 2018 WL 3474082 (N.D. Okla. July 19, 2018) provides a good opportunity to revisit contribution and indemnity claims arising out failures to meet the design/build requirements in Section 3604(f)(3)(C) of the Fair Housing Act.* The question remains the same as always: does the law make any sense at all.**
The judge who decided Cherokee Meadows was faced with a split between two Circuit Courts of Appeal and no precedent from the Tenth Circuit, which Oklahoma is a part of. The leading case on contribution and indemnity in design/build cases was Equal Rights Center v. Niles Bolton Associates, 602 F.3d 597, 602 (4th Cir. 2010). In that case the Fourth Circuit held that the Fair Housing Act pre-empted any state law that might allow an owner to put off all or even part of the liability for design/build failures on a third party. The Court found that the owner had a “non-delegable duty”† to follow the law and that allowing any shifting of liability would encourage owners to evade that duty. Equal Rights Center punishes an owner who may be innocent while excusing those who are in fact guilty because, it appears, the Fourth Circuit views the purpose of the FHA as primarily punitive.‡ More
When does a mental impairment become a disability? Let the jury decide
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, FHA, FHA definition of handicap, FHA Emotional Support Animals, Residential Development Tags: Emotional Support Animal, Fair Housing Act, FHA, reasonable accommodation
When used in the context of a claim under the Fair Housing Act or Americans with Disabilities Act the words “disability” and “handicap” have specific legal meanings. Our last blog looked at a case, Houston v. DTN Operating,* discussing what a plaintiff must plead concerning her disability in a reasonable accommodation case. Today we’re looking another recent case, Haws v. Norman, 2017 WL 4221064 (D. Utah Sept. 20, 2017) that considers the next step – a motion for summary judgment by the plaintiff. There is plenty of interest in the opinion on related subjects**, but the Court’s ruling on proof of disability and necessity of accommodation is especially important to landlords who suspect a disability claim is not justified. More
Endless liability under the Fair Housing Act — and let’s make it personal
By richardhunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA FHA General, ADA FHA Litigation General, FHA, Residential Development, Statute of Limitatinos Tags: Department of Justice, FHA ADA litigation "statute of limitations" strategy DOJ "attorney general" enforcement, FHA Litigation
I often remind my clients that when it comes to the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act the adage “ignorance is bliss” does not apply. Last week’s decision from the Southern District of Mississippi, U.S. v. Dawn Properties, Inc. et al 2014 WL 5775324 (S.D. Miss. Nov. 6, 2014) is a reminder that ignorance may turn corporate liability into personal liability for managers or owners, and that time may not be enough to insure safety.
The underlying business deals were common in the real estate development business. An LLC, Ridgeland Construction One LLC, was created to develop an apartment complex. Construction was finished in 2000 and the LLC was merged into a Delaware LLC of the same name. It was then sold to a new group of investors. In 2006 the property was sold and, two years later, the LLC was dissolved. No one involved suspected that there might be FHA accessibility violations although it appears no survey was ever conducted to make sure. More
FHA liability for subsequent purchasers – what’s next?
By richardhunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA FHA General, ADA FHA Legislation, ADA FHA Litigation General, Apartments, Condominiums, FHA, Multi-Family, Residential Development Tags: Apartments, Condominiums, FHA Litigation, private lawsuits
Until 2011 it was clear that a person who purchased an existing multi-family development or apartment complex and was not affiliated with the original owner did not have the kind of liability that would require making every unit accessible. “Design/build” liability of that kind was reserved to the original owner of the project based on 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3), HUD’s informal guidance and cases like Silver State Fair Housing Council, Inc. v. ERGS, Inc., 362 F.Supp.2d 1218 (D.Nev.2005). Then, in April of 2011 the District Court in the Middle District of Florida denied a Motion to Dismiss filed by a subsequent owner, finding that it might be possible to prove that merely owning an apartment complex that did not meet FHA standards would constitute discrimination under 42 U.S.C. §3605(f)(1) or (2). Harding v. Orlando Apartments, LLC, 2011 WL 1457164 (M.D. Fla. 2011). More