HUD No. 08-043
March 25, 2008
HUD CHARGES TEXAS SUBDIVISION OWNERS, ZONING COMMITTEE WITH VIOLATING FAIR HOUSING ACT
Owners allegedly refused to grant reasonable accommodation to disabled resident
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it has charged Crow-Billingsley Air Park, Ltd., Airpark GP, L.L.C., and Air Park–Dallas Zoning Committee, owners of Air Park Estates, with violating the Fair Housing Act for denying a disabled resident a request for a reasonable accommodation. The Dallas Zoning Committee is an incorporated association that serves as the governing body for Air Park Estates.
In the summer of 2002, Sheryl Pick asked Air Park's zoning committee if she could install a footbridge over a drainage ditch in front of her property so she could have direct access to her mailbox. She also provided a letter from her doctor that substantiated her need for the footbridge. Mrs. Pick has a spinal cord condition that severely limits her mobility and causes her to easily lose her balance. According to Mrs. Pick, the zoning committee verbally approved her request, and she had a footbridge installed.
After the footbridge was installed, the composition of the zoning committee changed and, in September 2004, the new zoning committee sent Mrs. Pick a letter asking her to remove it. In the letter, the zoning committee claimed that the footbridge extends into a right-of-way owned by Air Park. In the months that followed, Mrs. Pick received several additional letters asking her to remove the footbridge.
HUD's investigation found that other residents had placed similar structures in the right-of-way without previous authorization, including a flagpole, trees and shrubbery, but none had been asked to remove them.
"It's important that the owners and the zoning committee understand their responsibility to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities," said Kim Kendrick, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO). "For persons with mobility impairments, receiving a reasonable accommodation is often the key to being able to fully use and enjoy their home."
A "reasonable accommodation" is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to fully enjoy their apartment or house. Common accommodations include providing a mobility impaired person with an accessible parking space, allowing a tenant who is blind to have a service animal, and allowing tenants with mental disabilities to designate a friend to mail their rent payment.
Housing discrimination charges heard before an administrative law judge carry a maximum civil penalty of $16,000 for a first offense, in addition to actual damages for each complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney's fees. Sanctions can be more severe if a respondent has a history of housing discrimination. Parties also have the right to elect to have their cases heard in federal district court.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate approximately 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), 800-927-9275 (TTY). Additional information is available at www.hud.gov/fairhousing. Stay on top of the most up-to-date news regarding the Fair Housing Act by signing up for the FHEO RSS Feed.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov.