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星期四, 7月 28, 2016

AG HEALEY FILES LAWSUITS AGAINST LANDLORDS FOR FAILING TO ACCOMMODATE TENANTS WITH DISABILITIES

AG HEALEY FILES LAWSUITS AGAINST LANDLORDS FOR FAILING TO ACCOMMODATE TENANTS WITH DISABILITIES
Properties Located in Roxbury and East Wareham

            BOSTON – Several entities have been sued for disability-based housing discrimination in lawsuits involving properties in Roxbury and East Wareham, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.

            The AG’s Office filed a complaint against Mission Park LP, Roxbury Tenants Association of Harvard, Inc., and Trinity Management, LLC, who own or manage several residential properties in Boston, including one in Roxbury at which they allegedly discriminated against a tenant by failing to reasonably accommodate her disability.

A complaint was also filed against New Depot Crossing, LP, Hallkeen Management, Inc., Housing Solutions for Southeastern Massachusetts, Inc., and Dianne Callahan, who own or manage an East Wareham property at which they allegedly discriminated against a tenant by seeking a court order to remove his assistance animals rather than reasonably accommodate his disability.
           
“Individuals with disabilities have the right to fully access, use, and enjoy housing accommodations—this is an issue of basic dignity and economic security,” said AG Healey. “Property owners and managers are required by law to work closely with tenants with disabilities to ensure that they are provided reasonable accommodations or modifications in a timely manner so that these tenants are not deprived of the rights promised to them under the law.”

Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability in the rental of housing accommodations. This prohibition includes a landlord or managing agent’s refusal to make a reasonable accommodation or modification if it is necessary to afford the person with a disability full enjoyment of the premises, as well as the failure to engage in a meaningful interactive process in response to requests for accommodations or modifications.

Mission Park LP/Roxbury Tenants Association of Harvard (RTH), Inc./Trinity Management, LLC
           
Mission Park and RTH together own residential apartments located in several buildings in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, including the Mission Park properties, which are managed by Trinity.

According to the complaint, filed on July 6 in Suffolk Superior Court, these three entities allegedly engaged in a pattern of discriminatory and unlawful housing practices against a tenant on the basis of her disability by repeatedly failing to provide reasonable accommodations and modifications to her residence. The tenant has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair.

On a numerous occasions during the application process and while living at the property, the tenant’s mother expressed her need for a wheelchair-accessible unit, including an accessible bathroom, doorways, kitchen counters, and entrances. The tenant also asked for permission to keep an emotional support dog.

In each instance, the defendants allegedly failed to engage in an interactive dialogue, required burdensome and unnecessary paperwork, and unreasonably delayed or refused to provide the reasonable modifications or accommodations—despite concerns expressed by the tenant’s health care provider that living in an inaccessible unit limited her independence and threatened her safety. The tenant ultimately waited two years for a fully accessible unit and was eventually given permission for a cat rather than a dog.

New Depot Crossing, LP/Hallkeen Management, Inc./Housing Solutions for Southeastern Massachusetts, Inc./Dianne Callahan

New Depot and Housing Solutions own a rental property located in East Wareham that consists of approximately 32 affordable housing units managed by HallKeen through property manager Dianne Callahan.  

According to the complaint, filed Monday in Suffolk Superior Court, these four defendants allegedly engaged in discriminatory and unlawful housing practices against a tenant on the basis of his disability by failing to provide reasonable accommodations. The tenant is blind and suffers from PTSD and relies on assistance animals.

The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the state’s fair housing law by requiring a specific form before considering the tenant’s request for a reasonable accommodation, inquiring into an open and obvious disability (blindness), and then failing to follow their own reasonable accommodation policies and procedures.

The complaint alleges that the defendants ultimately rushed to court to seek an order to remove the tenant’s assistance animals rather than engage in an interactive dialogue as required by law, and therefore effectively denied the tenant’s request for a reasonable accommodation.  As a result of the defendants’ actions, one of the tenant’s assistance animals—a guide dog—was eventually put down.
In each of these two cases, the AG’s Office is seeking injunctive relief and damages for the victim, as well as civil penalties, as a result of the defendants’ alleged discriminatory and unlawful housing practices.

These cases continue the AG’s efforts to protect the civil rights of all Massachusetts residents, including residents with disabilities. Tuesday marked the 26th anniversary of the American’s with Disabilities Act and one year since AG Healey formed a Disability Rights Advisory Committee. The Committee iscomprised of advocates and experts who meet on a regular basis to consult with and advise AG Healey and her staff on matters pertaining to inclusion, access, and equality for individuals with disabilities. Please clickhere for more information on AG Healey’s disability rights work since taking office.

The Mission Park matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Strovink of AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division. The New Depot matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Andrea Park of AG Healey’s Central Massachusetts Office and the AG’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Anthony Crespi of the Civil Investigations Division.