WASHINGTON, September 25, 2007 – The Justice Department today sued the developers, architects, and professional engineers responsible for building five apartment complexes in Spokane County, Wash., alleging that they designed and built the complexes in violation of the Fair Housing Act by failing to make the complexes accessible to wheelchair users and other persons with physical disabilities.
The five apartment complexes, all located in Spokane County, Wash., are: Rock Creek Apartments, Prairie Hills Apartments, Granite Court Apartments, Hilby Station Apartments, and Pineridge Apartments. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, charges that Spokane developer Lanzce G. Douglass and/or his affiliated corporation, Lanzce G. Douglass Inc. developed and built each of the five complexes. The suit also names architects Donald E. Neraas, Independent Home Designs Inc., and Ralph W. Hoover, and engineers J.R. Bonnett Engineering Inc. and Gary S. Nelson, alleging that they each designed portions of one or more of the complexes without including required accessibility features in the designs. Since 1989, federal law has required that new multi-family housing contain certain features to make it accessible to and usable by wheelchair users and other persons with physical disabilities.
“Steps, narrow doors, and other accessibility barriers exclude persons with physical disabilities just as surely as a sign saying persons with disabilities need not apply,” said Rena J. Comisac, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. “We will continue to make every effort to break down unlawful accessibility barriers in housing.”
The suit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the defendants, and requiring the defendants to modify the complexes to bring them into compliance with the Fair Housing Act, pay monetary damages to compensate victims, and pay a civil penalty.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Since Jan. 1, 2001, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has filed 235 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, 110 of which have alleged discrimination based on disability. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line (1-800-896-7743), email the Justice Department at fairhousing (at) usdoj (dot) gov, or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.