Justice Department Settles Texas Disability-Based Housing Discrimination Lawsuit

A Texas apartment developer and a Texas site engineer have agreed to settle a federal lawsuit alleging they violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The suit alleged that they built an eight-building addition and associated rental office at the Seasons Resort in Galveston, Texas, that were inaccessible to persons with disabilities. 

“The Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act require that new multifamily housing be accessible to persons with disabilities,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “This lawsuit and its resolution help ensure that individuals with disabilities and their families live with dignity and enjoy equal housing and all other opportunities available to the people of the United States.”

“There is no place in our community for violating the ADA and FHA,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick for the Southern District of Texas. “Our Office is committed to enforcing these to ensure that every person with a disability has full access to residential buildings within our district.”

Today’s settlement, pending court approval resolves a lawsuit the Department filed in February 2019. It alleged that Galveston developer TFT Galveston Portfolio LTD and site engineer James W. Gartrell Jr. violated the FHA and the ADA when they designed and constructed an eight-building addition and associated rental office at the Seasons Resort in 2003 with steps and other features that made them inaccessible to persons with disabilities.

Under the terms of the settlement, Galveston Portfolio must take corrective actions such as removing steps, replacing steeply-sloped walkways and adding accessible parking to make public and common use portions of the property accessible to persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users. They must also construct a new apartment building with 24 accessible units, as well as a new accessible rental office, and establish a $75,000 settlement fund for people who suffered harm due to – the lack of accessible features at the Seasons Resort. The settlement also requires that Galveston Portfolio and Gartrell obtain training on the requirements of the FHA and ADA and ensure any future housing they design or construct complies with FHA and ADA requirements.

Persons who lived at or sought to live at the Seasons Resort who were denied housing or otherwise harmed because the complex was not accessible may be entitled to monetary compensation through today’s settlement. Such persons can contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743 mailbox # 94 or by email at fairhousing@usdoj.gov.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex and familial status. Among other things, the Fair Housing Act requires all multifamily housing constructed after March 12, 1991, to have basic accessibility features, including accessible routes without steps to all ground-floor units. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires, among other things, that places of public accommodation, such as rental offices at multifamily housing complexes designed and constructed for first occupancy after Jan. 26, 1993, be accessible to persons with disabilities. 

More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination may call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov, or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777 or through its website at https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/online-complaint.

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Author: December 4, 2019

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