HUD No. 06-116
September 19, 2006
HUD SETTLES DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION SUIT AGAINST CONDO ARCHITECT, BUILDER AND DEVELOPER IN PUERTO RICO
Developer Verde Isla Court, Inc., agrees to guarantee accessible modifications with $1 million secure bond
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today a settlement between Carmen and Salvador O'Neill, who has Parkinson's disease, and the architect, builder, and developer of their condominium in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The O'Neills alleged that Verde Isla Court, Inc., QB Construction, and Gutierrez-Latimer C.S.P. - the developer, builder, and architect of the Astralis Residences and Club (Astralis) - discriminated against them by designing and constructing Astralis in such a manner that it is not accessible to persons with disabilities.
HUD's investigation revealed that the developer, builder, and architect of Astralis failed to design and construct the dwelling units and common areas in accordance with the Fair Housing Act's accessibility requirements for multifamily dwellings covered by the Act. These requirements include, among other things, that the public and common use areas be readily accessible to persons with disabilities; that all doors designed to allow passage into and within the premises are sufficiently wide to allow passage by persons in wheelchairs; and that kitchens and bathrooms are usable by persons in wheelchairs.
HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity in Puerto Rico worked with the parties and their representatives in identifying violations, reviewing design solutions, and negotiating a conciliation agreement. As part of the agreement, the developer, Verde Isla Court, Inc., and the architect, Gutierrez-Latimer, C.S.P., agree to make the O'Neill's unit fully compliant with the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act. In addition, the developer and architect, along with the builder and the Astralis Condominium Residents Association, agree to reimburse the O'Neills $3,750.00 for expenses they incurred.
In order to provide relief for other tenants at the property who may be affected, Verde Isla Court, Inc., also has agreed to, among other things:
- Make common area modifications that include adding accessible routes throughout the property and fully accessible bathrooms inside the gym and the meeting room.
- Issue a bank letter of commitment for a $1 million performance bond to the United States in the event the respondents fail to comply with the settlement agreement.
- Notify all present owners of the Astralis Residences and Club of the availability, at no cost to them, to have their units fully or partially retrofitted to include the accessibility features required by the Fair Housing Act. Available modifications include widening doorways in master bedrooms and bathrooms and installing electrical outlets in accessible locations.
The agreement also states that the Astralis Condominium Residents Association will preserve and maintain eight accessible parking spaces and that Gutierrez Latimer, C.S.P., will sponsor a fair housing conference for the housing industry in Puerto Rico.
"The resolution we were able to reach in this case is a win not only for the O'Neills, but also the other residents of the Astralis Residences and Club," said Kim Kendrick, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "Through settlement agreements such as this one, HUD is ensuring that housing is available on equal terms to all Americans, including persons with disabilities."
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Initiatives Program and the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate approximately 9,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777. Additional information is available at www.hud.gov/fairhousing.