On April 12, 2006, the Savannah-Chatham County Fair Housing Council, Inc. filed a lawsuit under the Fair Housing Act 42 U.S.C. §3604(f)(3)(C), against the Defendants, owners, operators, designers, homeowners association, and builders of two condominium developments, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. The Plaintiff, represented by private counsel, claimed the Defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of disability in its design, construction, sale and operation of the two multi-family housing developments. The Plaintiff sought injunctive, declaratory, and monetary relief.
On September 26, 2008, the United States Department of Justice filed its own case against the same defendants, adding as defendants an engineering firm, a construction firm, and a property owners association, in the same court. The United States similarly claimed the Defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of disability in the design, construction, sale and operation of the covered multi-family dwellings and asked the Court for the same relief as the Savannah-Chatham County Fair Housing Council, Inc. On November 11, 2008, the two cases were consolidated for all purposes.
Plaintiffs claim that the multi-family dwellings were designed, built and operated in such a way as to be inaccessible to persons with disabilities in their common and public use areas, passage in and out of the premises, and in the interiors of the units, all in violation of the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (the "Fair Housing Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 - 3619.
At some point, several of the Defendants went out of business. During the last two weeks of June 2011, the Court (Judge William T. Moore) approved five-year Partial Consent Orders between the United States and these Defendants, requiring Defendants to notify the Department of Justice within 15 days of re-entering the business of designing and constructing multi-family house.
On June 13, 2011, the Court entered a Consent Order between the United States and the designers. On June 22, 2011, the Court entered a Consent Order between the Plaintiffs and the construction company. On June 30, 2011, the Court entered a Consent Order between the Plaintiffs and the real estate group, and on July 5, 2011, the Court entered a Consent Order between SCFHC and other individual defendants. In the orders, these Defendants were not required to pay any money for retrofits or penalties, due to their insolvency. As of October 26, 2011, the civil engineering firm was the only original defendant still operating as a viable entity, but the ownership and operation of the two housing developments had been transferred to new entities. These entities were brought into the lawsuits as necessary parties.
On October 26, 2011, after five years of litigation and negotiation, the plaintiffs entered and the Court approved a Consent Order between the plaintiffs, the engineering firm and the current owner/operators. The Decree requires extensive retrofits to the subject properties' common areas and to the 194 ground-floor units covered by the Fair Housing Act, along with training and education requirements, strict time frames, and monitoring by an independent inspector. The Decree also provided for a $227,000 "retrofit" fund, a $50,000 settlement fund, and $158,375.00 in damages, including attorney fees to the fair housing council.
The Consent Order extended to 2014.
On December 24, 2014, the Defendants entered a report claiming compliance with the Consent Order and asking the court to dismiss the case with prejudice.Stacey McClurkin - 02/04/2012
Asma Husain - 01/31/2016