The United States Department of Justice announced a $450,000 settlement with the owners and developer of eight senior living complexes, one of which is in Franklin, for violating the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to construct the properties with required features meant to make them accessible to people with disabilities.
The DOJ announcement was made in a news release on Thursday, which detailed that Dominion Management LLC and its affiliate companies will pay all costs related to retrofitting the properties with the required features. They will pay $400,000 into a settlement fund to compensate individuals harmed by the inaccessible housing as well as paying $50,000 in civil penalties to the government.
“The defendants also will undergo training, ensure that any future construction complies with federal accessibility laws and make periodic reports to the Justice Department,” the news release reads.
According to that news release, the properties consist of more than $1,500 units across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, and the case was heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. The case originated in Franklin’s Somerby Franklin senior living community, when the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee learned of potential accessibility barriers at the retirement community.
“This settlement will lead to overdue property improvements which will serve to improve the quality of life for many elderly and disabled residents,” Acting U.S. Attorney Mary Jane Stewart for the Middle District of Tennessee said in a news release. “The FHA and the ADA exist, among other reasons, to prevent these kinds of obstacles from interfering with the daily activities of protected classes of residents. We will continue to vigorously investigate these types of complaints and take appropriate action to resolve issues which may run afoul of civil rights statutes.”
Under the settlement, the defendants have agreed to create accessible pedestrian walkways to the leasing office and site amenities, install accessible curb cuts and parking and modify kitchens and bathrooms at these senior living complexes, along with other renovations.
In addition to Somerby Franklin, the renovations will take place at Fleming Farms, in Huntsville, Ala.; Somerby St. Vincent’s One Nineteen in Birmingham, Ala.; Somerby Peachtree City, in Peachtree City, Ga.; Somerby Sandy Springs in Sandy Springs, Ga.; Westside, Alpharetta in Alpharetta, Ga.; Somerby Santa Rosa Beach in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.; and Somerby Mount Pleasant in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.
“All people deserve equal access to housing, including people with disabilities. The Justice Department stands ready to vigorously enforce federal laws to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Department’s Civil Rights Division said in the news release. “The agreement requires comprehensive corrections that will make the properties accessible for the senior citizens and people with disabilities who live there so that they can more fully enjoy their homes.”
According to the news release, people entitled to share in the settlement fund will be identified through a process established in the consent order.
Anyone who believes that they or their family members were subjected to unlawful discrimination at any of the aforementioned complexes should contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-833-591-0291, select option 1 for English; select option 4 for housing accessibility for persons with disabilities; and select option 2 for Dominion Management LLC to leave a voice message or email the Justice Department at [email protected].
“Today’s resolution ensures that a substantial number of persons with disabilities have accessible and safe living spaces,” U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona for the Northern District of Alabama said. “Our office will continue to work tirelessly to enforce the Fair Housing Act, and to see that its promise is met.”