In a chilling reminder of the high cost of flouting the Fair Housing Act, a Westchester County co-op and its management company have agreed in federal court to pay $125,000 in compensatory damages and attorney’s fees to an applicant who claimed he was discriminated against because of disabilities.
Joon Kim, the acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the settlement between the applicant and the Tompkins Manor co-op in White Plains and its management company, West-Ex Associates, the Armonk Daily Voice reports. The board must adopt reasonable accommodation policies and application forms approved by the United States, which must be included with all future applications handed out to prospective buyers.
In a complaint filed in January, a 34-year-old applicant claimed his repeated applications to buy a one-bedroom apartment at Tompkins Manor were rejected because of his disabilities. The applicant has suffered numerous heart attacks and has congenital heart problems, a developmental language disorder, learning disorders, and depression. The applicant and his family requested that ownership of his unit be placed under a legal trust, which would assist the family in fulfilling and managing the requirements of cooperative housing.
The federal Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate in the terms and conditions of an apartment sale because of the prospective buyer’s disability. The law also mandates that “reasonable accommodations” in rules, policies, practices, and services be provided when necessary to afford equal opportunity to housing to persons with disabilities.
Several pieces of legislation now pending before the New York City Council and state General Assembly would require co-op boards to state a reason when rejecting a purchase application – a method, according to bills’ sponsors, for ending the sort of discrimination that took place at Tompkins Manor.
“Every member of our society is entitled to equal access to housing and the independence and dignity that it provides,” Kim stated. "With this resolution, we again emphasize that condos, cooperatives, landlords, and property managers must provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities.”