Last month, two multifamily firms—JPI and Equity Homes—were hit with lawsuits and complaints alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. The firms join a growing roster of multifamily firms trying to navigate the complicated, often contradicting, federal accessibility laws.
JPI faces a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice for failing to provide accessible features required under federal law. According to the complaint, Irving, Texas-based JPI Construction and six JPI-affiliated companies failed to design and construct accessible units and public and common areas at properties including Jefferson Center Apartments in Austin, Texas, and Jefferson Mission Gate Apartments in Plano, Texas.
The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the defendants to modify the complexes to bring them into compliance with federal laws and prohibiting future discrimination by the defendants. JPI did not return calls for comment.
Meanwhile, Equity Homes is feeling the heat. HUD is charging the Sioux Falls, S.D.-based general contractor for failing to design and construct accessible units or public and common areas at three Sioux Falls, S.D., properties.
Fair Housing of the Dakotas, one of HUD’s Fair Housing Initiative Program agencies, filed the complaint. The dispute started more than five years ago, says Jon Broek, a partner at Equity Homes. Broek says his firm followed ADA guidelines as dictated by the state. “We received certificate of occupancies saying we met all ADA compliance,” he says. “We are assuming that our city is following all compliance.”
Never assume. “It turns out the city is not following the federal guidelines,” Broek adds. “I guarantee this is happening all over the country. The state follows a different code than the federal. We need to eliminate the loophole.”