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Federal Court Recognizes that Owners May be Liable for Renting Inaccessible Apartments

Relman, Dane & Colfax is pleased to announce an important new court decision governing the obligation of apartment owners to provide accessible multifamily housing. On February 17, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana held in National Fair Housing Alliance, et al v. S.C. Bodner Co., et al., that apartment building owners who had not been involved in the design and construction of units may be held liable under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) for continuing to offer units that are inaccessible to people with disabilities.

The underlying litigation, brought by the National Fair Housing Alliance and two of its member organizations, seeks retrofitting and other relief for sixteen multifamily properties developed by S.C. Bodner Company. Plaintiffs have settled their claim against Bodner, but the owners of five Bodner-built properties asked to be dismissed from the case, arguing they had no liability under the FHA.

Recognizing that purchasers of inaccessible multifamily housing may receive a discount in the purchase price and seek to shift the costs of remediation to tenants, the Court's opinion states that owners of multifamily housing may have a legal obligation to remediate inaccessible units.