On January 12, 2022, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a Determination and Charge in a fair housing case against the owners and operators of a Pennsylvania retirement community for discriminating against a senior citizen with disabilities concerned about getting adequate support during the COVID pandemic. Relman Colfax represents Ruth Gural, who has progressive memory loss and who needs assistance with activities of daily living, and her adult son Harry Gural, who left his home in Washington, D.C. and moved in with his mother to ensure that she was well cared for. This appears to be the first case in which HUD has found reasonable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred in connection with COVID.
Relman Colfax filed an administrative complaint with the HUD on August 5, 2020, alleging that the owners and operators of the RiverWoods Senior Living Community in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, violated the Fair Housing Act. That complaint alleged that after years of living peacefully in her own apartment, RiverWoods threatened to evict Ruth because Harry insisted on staying with her—beginning in March 2020—to provide her care and support during the COVID pandemic, when RiverWoods sought to bar all family, friends and private caregivers from even visiting residents.
In May 2020, RiverWoods threatened to terminate Mrs. Gural’s residency because Harry Gural (who holds her power of attorney and who became her primary caregiver) refused to abandon her. Relman Colfax requested a reasonable accommodation on behalf of the Gurals, in the form of an exception to a usual visitation policy, to allow Harry to stay with his mother until the pandemic abated and it was safe for other private caregivers to return. After RiverWoods denied the request in July 2020 and threatened to sue Harry to remove him from the property, the firm filed the HUD complaint.
HUD’s Determination and Charge finds reasonable cause to believe that Asbury and Albright discriminated against the Gurals because of Mrs. Gurals’ disability by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to let Harry stay with her as a live-in aide during the pandemic and threatening to terminate her tenancy. Right up to the present day, HUD said, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic makes it reasonable for the Gurals not to rely on third-party aides who could present a risk to Ruth’s health and would not create an undue financial and administrative burden or alter the nature of RiverWoods’ program.
The Relman Colfax team consists of Reed Colfax and Sara Pratt.
A copy of HUD’s Determination of Reasonable Cause is available here.