Saturday, July 13, 2013

After Feeling Forced To Move, Disabled Tenant Scores $16.5K In Suit Settlement Over Landlord's Alleged Failure To Respond & Engage In Interactive Process In Connection With Request To Make Building Wheelchair-Friendlier By Either Fixing Often-Broken Elevators Or Installing Ramp

From the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General:

  • A Worcester housing complex and its property management company will pay $20,000 to resolve allegations of disability-based housing discrimination, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced [].

    The assurance of discontinuance (AOD), filed with the Suffolk Superior Court today, resolves allegations that Federal Square Condominium Trust, owner of a 76-unit condominium complex with four commercial units in Worcester, and its property management company Alpine Property Management, failed to respond to a tenant’s requests to make the building wheelchair accessible.

    Specifically, the tenant requested that the defendants fix the often-broken elevators or install a ramp. Because of the failure to respond and to make the requested modifications, the tenant and her disabled partner were forced to move out of the building.

    “Massachusetts law requires landlords to communicate with and provide reasonable accommodations for their tenants with disabilities,” AG Coakley said. “Landlords must meet their obligations under the law in a timely manner especially when it comes to tenants who have every right to safe access to their own home.”

    Under Massachusetts law, when a property owner or manager receives a request from a tenant with disabilities for an accommodation, the owner or manager has to take steps to communicate with the tenant to identify whether or not it is reasonable to provide such an accommodation. They may ultimately deny the tenant’s request, but they have to engage in an interactive process.

    Under the terms of the agreement, Federal Square and Alpine will pay a total of $20,000, including $16,500 to the tenant and $3,500 to the Commonwealth. In addition, Alpine will implement new policies to ensure that it properly responds to requests for reasonable accommodations in the future within 15 business days and to maintain a written log of all requests to ensure compliance.

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