There’s a Cost to Not Complying with the Federal Fair Housing Act Design Requirements

Over the past decade, one of the most overlooked aspects of federal accessibility law has been adherence to the federal Fair Housing Act design and construction guidelines. For example, in May 2013 the DOJ settled a case concerning violations of the Guidelines for a total of $925,000. This settlement arose out the defendants’ violations of the Guidelines in the design and construction of number of multifamily housing complexes in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. As recently as last month, Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) announced settling a housing discrimination lawsuit against the architects, builders, and owners of five apartment complexes located in the Triad area of North Carolina. The five complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), alleged that the respondents failed to design and construct the complexes to make them accessible and usable to persons with disabilities in compliance with the federal Fair Housing Act. The action resulted in a conciliation agreement signed by the parties and approved by HUD on October 5, 2020. Through the agreement, accessibility modifications will be made in 325 ground floor units, as well as in common areas in each of the properties. The respondents have estimated the cost of the modifications will be $1.3 million.