The Justice Department announced today that the Town of Irmo, South Carolina, has agreed to pay $25,000 to a homeowner with a disability as part of a settlement agreement resolving the government’s Fair Housing Act (FHA) lawsuit.
The department’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina in November 2018, alleged that the town violated the FHA by refusing to allow the Irmo homeowner to build a carport adjacent to her home to accommodate her physical disability. According to the complaint, the homeowner, after falling and suffering injuries on several occasions outside her home, applied for a zoning variance in 2016 to build a carport to protect her driveway and mobility ramp in inclement weather and prevent future falls; the town summarily denied the variance. The homeowner filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which conducted an investigation and referred the matter to the Justice Department.
“The homeowner in this case requested a simple, straightforward, and reasonable accommodation: to build a carport adjacent to her own single-family home so she would be protected from the elements and could safely enter and exit her home. She should not have been forced to wait three years for this accommodation,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “This settlement is a reminder that the Justice Department is committed to working tirelessly to enforce the Fair Housing Act and protect the rights of persons with disabilities. The department’s lawsuit should also serve as a warning that federal law protects the right of persons with disabilities to be secure in their homes and that the Justice Department will do whatever is necessary to protect that right.”
“This office will take action to protect those with disabilities,” said Peter M. McCoy, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina. “This settlement not only compensates an individual who was initially prevented from making reasonable accommodations for her disability, but it helps ensure that those in similar situations are protected in the future.”
“Today’s settlement is a victory for persons with disabilities, who often need basic modifications to their living space in order to fully utilize and enjoy the place they call home,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to work with the Justice Department to take appropriate action when a municipality’s housing practices violate the law.”
After the department filed the lawsuit, the town adopted an ordinance allowing persons with disabilities to request reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services to afford them an equal opportunity to use or enjoy their home. More than a year later, the town finally granted the homeowner’s reasonable accommodation request and allowed her to build a carport so she could live safely in her home. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the town is prohibited from engaging in future disability discrimination or interfering with the homeowner’s use of her carport, and town officials must participate in fair-housing training and report to the department any denial of a request for a reasonable accommodation.
The federal FHA prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, and familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt.
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Author: November 6, 2020