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Federal suit settled in Missouri for $18K, disability modifications to apartments

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(The Center Square) – Two companies will pay $18,500 and make modifications to a St. Louis County apartment complex to settle a lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Last year, the companies were accused of violating the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit started with a complaint to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council. HUD’s investigation verified violations and a lawsuit was filed.

“This settlement makes clear that the Justice Department is committed to zealously enforcing the federal civil rights laws that guarantee people with disabilities equal access to housing,” Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “Real estate developers across the country should take note that they cannot ignore federally mandated accessibility requirements.”

LJLD LLC and Westminster Properties LLC failed to design and construct the Bridgewater Residences Apartments to be accessible for people with disabilities, according to information provided by the DOJ. The 36-page settlement order must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for Eastern Missouri.

“Under this agreement, tenants with disabilities will be compensated for the difficulties they suffered in the past at these apartments,” Sayler A. Fleming, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, said in a statement. “But more importantly, the agreed-upon updates will make it safer and easier for both current and future tenants to easily access all the facilities of the complex, including dumpsters, dog parks and their own apartment bathrooms.”

The fine will be deposited into a fund compensating harmed individuals. The agreed upon modifications to the property include eliminating inaccessibly steep slopes on walkways around the outside of the apartment complex. Sidewalks and ramps will be constructed to make the trash dumpster, dog park and other exterior facilities more accessible. Bathrooms in the apartments also will be modified to make them more accessible and usable.

In addition to the compensation and building modifications, the settlement requires the companies to undergo training on federal regulations regarding design and construction requirements.

“In advance of the training, each Defendant will submit the name and qualifications of the trainer for approval by the United States,” the settlement states. “The Defendant(s) being provided the training shall be responsible to pay the expenses associated with the training.”

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