HUD No. 05-031
March 21, 2005
HUD CHARGES DESIGNER, BUILDER, DEVELOPER, ENGINEER, AND OWNER OF ILLINOIS APARTMENT COMPLEX WITH VIOLATIONS OF FAIR HOUSING ACT
Applegate Apartments in Swansea, IL, built without accessibility for persons with disabilities
WASHINGTON - The Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced the Department is charging several St. Louis-based companies, and their representatives, with violating the Fair Housing Act by designing and constructing Applegate Apartments in Swansea, Illinois, without required accessibility features for persons with disabilities.
Thouvenot, Wade & Moerchen, Inc., and representatives from Netemeyer Engineering Associates, Inc.; Vollmer Realty, Inc.; Residential Design & Blueprint Company; and Shanrie Company, Inc., face federal charges as a result of building six three-story buildings, each with 12 units, that do not comply with the federal Fair Housing Act. The violations effectively denied persons with disabilities access to the buildings as well as to various areas within individual units.
"The Fair Housing Act requires that covered multifamily dwellings constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, take into consideration the needs of persons with disabilities," said Carolyn Peoples, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "Stairs without ramps, and doorways too narrow for wheelchairs, deny persons with disabilities access to the housing of their choice."
The Fair Housing Act specifically requires that:
- The public use and common use portions of covered multifamily dwellings are readily accessible to and usable by disabled persons;
- All the doors designed to allow passage into and within all premises within such dwellings are sufficiently wide to allow passage by disabled persons in wheelchairs;
- All premises within such dwellings contain the following features of adaptive design;
- An accessible route into and through the dwelling;
- Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and other environmental controls in accessible locations;
- Reinforcements in bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars; and,
- · Usable kitchens and bathrooms such that an individual in a wheelchair can maneuver about the space.
An investigation of Applegate Apartments revealed numerous violations of these requirements. Wheelchair users and others with disabilities cannot get from the parking lots to the primary entrances of the buildings without negotiating stairs. Several areas within individual units are inaccessible to wheelchair users, because doorways do not provide the minimum required 32" clear passage width. The interiors of individual units do not provide usable kitchens and bathrooms for persons with disabilities. Additionally, electrical outlets are placed in inaccessible locations, making them unusable.
"Metro St. Louis, a non-profit corporation that advocates for equal housing for all individuals, deserves credit for bringing this apartment complex to our attention," said Peoples. "For a person with a disability small construction changes can mean a world of difference. HUD will continue working to ensure apartment doors are open wide for everybody."
A hearing on the charges will be held by a U.S. Administrative Law Judge on June 14, 2005, unless either the complainant or respondent elect to have the case decided by a federal judge in U.S. District Court. An election to go to district court must be made by April 11, 2005.
Housing discrimination charges heard before an ALJ carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense in addition to actual damages for the complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney fees. Sanctions can be more severe if the respondent has a history of housing discrimination. If either party elects to go to federal district court, either party may request a jury trial, and punitive damages may be awarded.
In either forum, a United States Department of Housing and Urban Development attorney or a Department of Justice attorney brings the case on behalf of the complainant. Each party also has the right to be represented by his or her own attorney. HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, and people with disabilities. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov.
People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 or DOJ at (800) 896-7743 or 202-514-4713. Additional information is available at www.hud.gov and www.usdoj.gov.