Lawsuit for alleged rental disability discrimination settled

Devils Lake Daily Journal

NORTH DAKOTA - The Department of Justice announced today that Hampton Corporation Inc. and several related individuals and entities have agreed to settle a federal lawsuit alleging that they violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to design and construct apartment complexes and a rental office in North Dakota so they are accessible to people with disabilities.

The Department of Justice previously resolved claims against the architect and engineer involved in the design of one of the four apartment complexes at issue in the lawsuit.

“For over 30 years, the Fair Housing Act has required that new housing complexes be accessible to individuals with disabilities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “By requiring modifications to the properties, this settlement will reduce substantial barriers faced by people with disabilities in their own homes and will advance the Fair Housing Act’s promise of housing that is accessible for all.”

“Our U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice are committed to fighting discriminatory treatment in housing,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas W. Chase for the District of North Dakota. “We hope that this enforcement action and others like it will serve as a deterrent to developers, architects, and engineers everywhere that they cannot cut corners by ignoring longstanding accessibility requirements. Our office’s Civil Rights Coordinator in our Civil Division, AUSA Tara Iversen, along with Paralegal Specialist Michelle Erdmann, teamed with talented trial attorneys from the Department of Justice’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section to produce a great result for persons with disabilities in North Dakota and the region.”

This settlement, which must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, resolves a lawsuit the department filed in March 2020. The lawsuit alleged that significant physical accessibility barriers existed at four apartment complexes and a rental office designed and constructed by Hampton Corporation Inc.; Daniel Stauss; Scott Stauss; Steeple Apts LLC; HDD Inc.; and Times Square Townhomes II Inc. Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants must correct inaccessible features in the common areas of the properties and within the individual units, including: removing steps; replacing steeply-sloped walkways; adding accessible routes to mailboxes and site arrival points; ensuring that obstacles do not protrude into the circulation path; installing lever handles on doors; widening doorways; retrofitting bathrooms so they are accessible for wheelchair users; and relocating outlets and controls to within a wheelchair user’s reach range. The defendants must also attend fair housing training, contribute $100,000 to a settlement fund (which, combined with the department’s earlier settlement with the architect and engineer, brings the settlement fund total to $120,000) for people who suffered harm due to the lack of accessible features at the properties, pay a civil penalty of $5,000 to the United States, and ensure that any future housing they design or construct complies with the FHA.

The properties with alleged violations are the following:

• Townhomes at Charleswood, located at 1908 Burlington Drive in West Fargo, North Dakota;

• Steeples Apartments, located at 2850 and 2950 36th Avenue South in Grand Forks, North Dakota;

• South Hampton Townhomes, located at 3174, 3274, and 3374 36th Avenue South in Grand Forks, North Dakota;

• Carrington Court Townhouse Apartments, located at 3383 Primrose Court in Grand Forks, North Dakota; 

• The rental office serving Carrington Court Townhouse Apartments, South Hampton Townhomes, and Steeples Apartments, located at 3001 36th Avenue South in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The Justice Department, through the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Civil Rights Division, enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Among other protections, the FHA requires that multifamily housing buildings with four or more units constructed after March 13, 1991, have basic physical accessibility features, including, among other things, accessible routes without steps to all single-story, ground-floor units and to all units in a building served by an elevator.

The ADA protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in public accommodations, including the rental office at issue in this case. The full and fair enforcement of the FHA, the ADA, and their mandates to integrate individuals with disabilities are major priorities of the Civil Rights Division. Individuals who believe they or someone they know may have had difficulty due to the inaccessible conditions at any of these properties, either when they or someone associated with them lived there or considered living there, should contact the Department of Justice at 1-800- 896-7743 Ex. 9994.

More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov, or submit a report online at www.civilrights.justice.gov.