Relman Colfax, along with co-counsel CNY Fair Housing, Inc., filed a lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, alleging violations of the federal Fair Housing Act by Clover Group Inc. and its affiliate companies who own and operate over forty (40) senior living properties in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky.
Plaintiffs include three senior residents of Camillus Pointe Senior Apartments (located just outside of Syracuse, New York), all of whom have disabilities, and fair housing organizations CNY Fair Housing, Fair Housing Partnership of Greater Pittsburgh, Fair Housing Center for Rights & Research of Cleveland, Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Buffalo, and Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Cincinnati.
The lawsuit is based on an investigation that began when several senior residents with disabilities living at Camillus Pointe brought complaints to CNY Fair Housing that their requests for assigned parking spaces – whether regular spaces close to their units or accessible spaces with curb-cuts and access aisles – had been denied. Subsequently, residents who made reasonable accommodation requests were told that Clover required a $350.00 fee for a reserved space. Plaintiffs, who have mobility-limiting disabilities such as arthritis, pleurisy, and COPD, need designated parking near their units to prevent physical injury and pain from walking long distances from their parked cars, particularly in bad weather. The lack of reserved parking spaces at Clover properties has caused senior residents with disabilities to skip grocery shopping, forego opportunities to visit friends and family or attend religious services, fall and injure themselves in the parking lot, rely on their children to drive them around, and feel imprisoned in their own homes because of worries about being unable to secure a close-by parking space whenever they return to the property.
Despite advocacy from CNY Fair Housing, senior residents were denied their rights over many years. Four other fair housing groups also investigated Clover properties and found the same policies in place at more than 15 Clover properties in three states. The organizations also documented a pricing scheme that charged residents with disabilities a non-waivable monthly surcharge for certain units, such as those on the first floor, closer to elevators, or with accessible features such as grab bars.
“Providing a designated parking space that people with disabilities need is a right protected by the Fair Housing Act,” Sara Pratt, Counsel at Relman Colfax noted. “Clover’s senior properties across four states ignored that right and even tried to charge a fee for a designated space even though they have many residents who have disabilities.”
“For years, these companies have disregarded and profited from the needs of residents with disabilities, charging them for things like needing to park closer to their apartment or live closer to an elevator,” said CNY Fair Housing’s Executive Director, Sally Santangelo. “We’re filing this lawsuit to make sure that these discriminatory practices come to an end and the fair housing rights of these residents are respected.”
The Relman Colfax case team includes Sara Pratt and Reed Colfax, with paralegal assistance from Brianna Terrell. The Relman Colfax case team is co-counseling with CNY Fair Housing, Inc.