Civil Rights Disability Fair Housing Lawsuit Settled

Long Island Housing Services, Inc. and Westbury Terrace Condominium Implement Mechanism for Reasonable Accommodation and Modification under Fair Housing Laws for Residents with a Disability

On July 20, 2017, Long Island Housing Services, Inc. (LIHS) and the Board of Managers of the Westbury Terrace Condominium reached an amicable settlement in a lawsuit commenced by LIHS in December, 2015 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.  Through the lawsuit, LIHS challenged the Board of Managers for its failure to provide reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification for a shareholder with a disability seeking an equal opportunity to use and enjoy her home of more than 20 years in the same manner as her non-disabled resident neighbors, as the law requires.

LIHS Acting Executive Director Ian Wilder stated:

We appreciate that the resolution of this complaint has removed barriers and that features of the housing have been made accessible for the residents that are affected. Anyone, through normal course of aging, or by circumstances of health or injury may one day experience changed circumstances requiring access.

The settlement resolves claims that the Board of Managers of the Westbury Terrace Condominium discriminated against a disabled owner under the federal Fair Housing Act, the New York Human Rights Law, and Nassau County Administrative Code. LIHS was represented by attorneys Robert L. Schonfeld and Christopher J. Clarke of the law firm Moritt Hock & Hamroff LLP (MHH).

The settlement requires the Board of Managers to take several actions to ensure the fair housing rights of residents are protected.  They must implement a fair housing policy that includes a mechanism for residents to make formal requests for reasonable accommodations or modifications.  In addition, they must create a timeline for the Board of Managers to respond to such requests.  Lastly, the Board of Managers must attend a fair housing training program approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Also as a result of the lawsuit, the Board of Managers provided some notable accommodations: the installation of a buzzer system to allow all residents the ability to grant access to the building from an apartment during hours that a doorman is not on duty, as well as allowing the owner to retain a covered parking space.  Additionally, Westbury Terrace has automated doorways and installed an emergency generator to address the safety concerns for residents with disabilities.

The federal Fair Housing Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the local Nassau County Human Rights Law all prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, disability, sex, religion, and familial status, with the New York State law also prohibiting discrimination on the basis of marital status, military status, and age.

Westbury Terrace Condominium, a 126 unit building constructed in 1973 pre-dates the 1988 amendments of the Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) which added critical protections for people with mental and physical disabilities and dictated requirements as to basic accessibility features in newly constructed multi-family dwellings.  Despite the age of the building, the Fair Housing Act obligates housing providers to make reasonable accommodations and/or modifications in order to allow full access, use and enjoyment such as non-disabled residents enjoy.

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About Long Island Housing Services, Inc.  Founded in 1969, Long Island Housing Services is a private, non­profit HUD-qualified Fair Housing Enforcement Organization and a federally certified, approved Housing Counseling agency. Its work is supported in part by HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program for Private Enforcement.  LIHS’ mission is the elimination of unlawful discrimination and promotion of decent and affordable housing through advocacy and education.  Tenants and prospective tenants, home buyers and real estate agents who believe they may have been victims of housing discrimination in the Long Island area may contact LIHS:  info@LIFairHousing.org, or by phone at 1-800-660-6920.

About Moritt Hock & Hamroff LLP.  With offices on Long Island and Manhattan, Moritt Hock & Hamroff LLP provides a wide range of legal services to businesses, corporations and individuals worldwide.

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