Despite a landmark fair housing settlement between the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and builder A.G. Spanos Cos. announced in January, the pace of fair housing lawsuits levied against multifamily developers is likely to continue unabated. Department of Justice deputy chief Timothy Moran of the Civil Rights Division, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section warns that the DOJ will continue to actively pursue multifamily violators of the Fair Housing Act, whether those violators are brought to attention via private litigators, internal departmental investigations, or referral from HUD.
“The bottom line is that there is a federal law called the Fair Housing Act that requires multifamily housing to meet certain accessibility requirements, and that law is independent of the local building code and enforcement structure,” Moran said earlier this year.
On Jan. 13, the Washington, D.C.-based NFHA announced that it had reached a settlement with Stockton, Calif.-based A.G. Spanos resolving fair housing infraction allegations at 123 multifamily communities in 14 states. Under the agreement, the nation’s fifth-largest builder of residential real estate will retrofit properties in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, and Texas at an estimated cost of $7.4 million. The agreement also establishes a $4.2 million national fund to provide retrofitting grants to people with disabilities across the country.
“If you have not been involved in a lawsuit of this kind yet, consider yourself lucky,” said Theresa Kitay of Marina del Rey, Calif.-based Kitay Law. “And you may be lucky, but don’t consider yourself immune. These suits are happening and will continue to happen.” —