Plymouth Meeting apartment complex part of federal lawsuit involving Fair Housing Act violations

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced on June 18th that the United States has filed a Federal Fair Housing Act (or FHA) lawsuit against Fort Washington-based Toll Brothers, Inc., and Toll Brothers Realty Trust, relating to “their failure to design and construct new apartment buildings so as to be accessible to persons with physical disabilities.” The suit involves five Toll Brothers’ properties, including the Parc apartments in Plymouth Meeting (Plymouth Township).

The FHA’s accessible design and construction provisions require multifamily housing complexes, such as apartments, constructed after January 1991 to have basic features accessible to persons with disabilities.

The complaint from the federal government outlines specific issues at the five properties that do not meet the Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines, Design Guidelines for Accessible/Adaptable Dwellings.

The specific issues in the complaint that were found to exist at Parc in Plymouth Meeting include:

  • The running slope of the entrance to the building is not accessible to persons who use wheelchairs because it is excessively steep.
  • The front entrances to Buildings 6 and 7 are not accessible to persons who use wheelchairs because the handrail extensions on the ramp do not extend 12” in the direction of travel, and/or the landing at the bottom of the ramp is too narrow.
  • The parking spaces designated for people with disabilities are not in fact accessible because their slopes are too steep.
  • The clubhouse kitchen / lounge is inaccessible to persons who use wheelchairs for mobility because the U-shaped kitchen lacks adequate maneuvering space and the bar/counter is too high above the finished floor.
  • Mailboxes are not accessible to persons who use wheelchairs because they are located too high.
  • The common-use restroom is not accessible to persons who use wheelchairs because the toilet is located in a space that is too narrow, the flush valve is not located on the open side of the toilet, and there is insufficient maneuvering clearance on the latch pull side of the door.
  • The designated accessible route entrance to Building B5 is not in fact accessible because at the elevator, there is a significant level change and steps.
  • In individual units, the kitchens are inaccessible by persons who use wheelchairs because they lack adequate clear floor space or sufficient turning radius or maneuvering space.
  • In individual units, the bathrooms are inaccessible by persons who use wheelchairs because they lack adequate clear floor space for maneuvering.
  • In individual units, the thresholds at the balcony doors are not accessible to persons who use wheelchairs because they are too high.
  • In individual units, thermostats in some rooms are inaccessible to persons who use wheelchairs because they are too high from the floor.

Within the press release announcing the lawsuit, it states:

Due to the inaccessible conditions at the buildings they designed and constructed, Toll Brothers engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights protected by the FHA and denied such rights to people with disabilities.  The Complaint seeks a court order directing Toll Brothers to retrofit individual apartments as well as the public and common use areas of the buildings so that they are accessible, to adopt policies and procedures to ensure FHA compliance in future constructions, and to compensate people who suffered discrimination due to the inaccessible conditions.

Upon filing suit, the United States also submitted to the court a proposed consent decree with Lendlease (US) Construction LMB Inc, f/k/a Bovis Lend Lease LMB Inc., which participated in the design and construction of one such building in New York. This settlement is subject to the review and approval of the U.S. District Judge assigned to the case.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated, “This is the 19th suit that this Office has filed to remedy the failure of real estate developers to comply with the Fair Housing Act.  We appreciate Lendlease’s cooperation in taking responsibility for its actions so that more properties are more accessible to more people.  This Office will remain vigilant in ensuring that developers and architects comply with the FHA and remedy inaccessible housing in this District.”

Under the settlement with Lendlease agreed to establish procedures to ensure FHA compliance in future development projects and agreed to establish policies and training to ensure that their employees and agents will comply with the FHA’s accessibility requirements. Lendlease will agreed to pay a civil penalty of $10,000, in connection to its role in designing and/or constructing the North 8th apartments in New York.

Photo: Google