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A $450,000 settlement with an architectural firm that designs senior living communities should remind developers and architects of such properties that they must comply with federal laws that require the properties to be accessible for people with disabilities, the Justice Department said last week.

The bathrooms, kitchens and other areas of six senior living communities, one senior apartment complex and one nursing home in Pennsylvania will be retrofitted to make them more accessible to those with disabilities under the terms of the settlement of a federal lawsuit against Riverton, NJ-based J. Randolph Parry Architects, the department said.

The firm, accused of violating the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, will pay $350,000 to fund the retrofits; $75,000 into a settlement fund to compensate individuals harmed by the inaccessible housing; and $25,000 to the government as a civil penalty. The consent order, which includes the fact that it “should not be deemed an admission of liability by Parry,” was approved by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

“This settlement should serve as a reminder to architects and developers across the country that they cannot ignore federally mandated accessibility requirements, including those that apply to housing for seniors,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said Thursday in a statement. The department “is committed to vigorously enforcing the federal laws guaranteeing people with disabilities equal access to housing,” she said.

The architectural firm did not respond to a request for comment from McKnight’s Senior Living.

The eight affected properties:

  • Arbour Square, Harleysville, PA
  • The Birches, Newtown, PA
  • Chestnut Knoll, Boyertown, PA
  • Keystone Villa, Douglasville, PA
  • Traditions of Hanover, Bethlehem, PA
  • Traditions of Hershey, Hershey, PA
  • Cedar Views Apartments, Philadelphia, PA
  • Lifequest Nursing Center Addition, Quakertown, PA

The Justice Department previously resolved its claims against LifeQuest Nursing Center, the developer and owner of one of the properties. The owners of the other properties continue to face a lawsuit from the department.

Also last week, the Justice Department announced that Maryland-based developer Stavrou Associates had agreed to pay a total of $370,000 to settle a similar lawsuit involving 11 multifamily housing complexes in Maryland, some specifically marketed as seniors housing. The amount includes $185,000 to settle claims that the company violated the Fair Housing Act and ADA by not including required accessibility features for people with disabilities, $175,000 to be paid into a settlement fund to compensate individuals harmed by the inaccessible housing, and $10,000 in civil penalties.

The lawsuit against Stavrou also raised similar allegations related to six properties developed by another Maryland-based senior housing developer, Humphrey Stavrou Associates. Those allegations are not resolved, according to the DOJ.

The FHA requires that multifamily housing buildings with four or more units constructed after March 13, 1991, have basic accessible features. The ADA, enacted in 1990, requires that rental offices at multifamily housing complexes and other “places of public accommodation” constructed after Jan. 26, 1993, be accessible to people with disabilities.

Several design and architectural experts previously shared with McKnight’s Senior Living tips for ensuring that communities meet residents’ accessibility needs in a compliant way after the 2017 filing of what was thought to be the first potential ADA-related class action lawsuit against an assisted living community.

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