WASHINGTON – May 4, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is charging a White Plains, New York, co-op with housing discrimination because it wouldn’t agree to a policy exception that would allow a person with a disability to live there.
In this case, it wasn’t a lack of elevators or ramps. Instead, it was a financial rule that didn’t allow units to be sold to a trust account.
The case came to HUD’s attention after a person with disabilities filed a complaint, alleging he was denied the opportunity to buy a unit at Thompkins Manor, a 155-unit cooperative in White Plains, New York, because of his disabilities.
The man’s parents had created a supplemental needs irrevocable trust to provide for the man’s care, and in August 2013, the man and his parents attempted to purchase a cooperative unit using the trust as the owner. According to the charge, 505 Central Avenue Corp., which owns Thompkins Manor, rejected the application because the cooperative doesn’t allow ownership by a trust.
The family allegedly asked the company to make an exception to its ownership rule as a “reasonable accommodation,” but it refused to do so.
A United States Administrative Law Judge will hear HUD’s charge unless any party elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he or she may award damages to the complainants for their loss as a result, injunctive relief, other equitable relief, payment of attorney fees and/or civil penalties in order to vindicate the public interest. If the case is heard in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages.
The Fair Housing Act protects residents with disabilities who request reasonable accommodations in policies or practices; and the law makes it illegal to make housing unavailable to any person because of a disability.
“Persons with disabilities depend on reasonable accommodations to level the playing field when it comes to finding a place to call home. Refusing to provide them denies access to housing and it violates the law,” says Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to take action when owners and homeowner associations fail to meet their obligations under the Fair Housing Act.”
Last year, disability was the most common basis of fair housing complaints filed with HUD; and Fair Housing Assistance Program agencies (HUD partners) cited disability discrimination as a basis for more than half (55 percent) of all complaints.
Reprinted with permission Florida Realtors. All rights reserved.
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