A real estate investment trust and an operator of middle-market senior living complexes in six states are facing a federal fair housing lawsuit alleging the denial of reasonable accommodations, illegal fees and discriminatory pricing schemes.
Toledo, OH-based REIT Welltower and Williamsville, NY-based Clover Group, which owns and operates 40 senior apartment complexes in New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Missouri, are named in a suit filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. The complaint was filed by CNY Fair Housing in Syracuse, The Fair Housing Partnership of Greater Pittsburgh, the Fair Housing Center for Rights & Research of Cleveland, Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Buffalo and Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Greater Cincinnati, along with three residents of Camillus Pointe Senior Apartments in Central New York.
The lawsuit was filed after several residents of Camillus Pointe Senior Apartments told CNY Fair Housing that they were being denied reasonable accommodations for assigned parking spaces needed due to mobility issues or were being charged up to $350 for such spaces. The legal action also accuses the company of adding a monthly $15 to $25 surcharge for ground floor apartments, units near elevators or units with accessible features, such as grab bars. CNY Fair Housing maintained in a press release that it advocated for the residents but that their rights continued to be denied.
“Clover residents with disabilities should not have to pay more for housing that meets their needs than their peers without disabilities do, but that’s what Clover’s policies require,” said Carrie Pleasants, executive director of the Fair Housing Center for Rights & Research. “It’s like an extra tax on people with disabilities, and it’s just plain wrong.”
A spokesperson for Welltower told McKnight’s Senior Living that the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.
After an undercover investigation with other fair housing groups in three states, the groups identified alleged company-wide policies and practices said to discriminate against people with disabilities. According to the lawsuit, the lack of accessibility at the properties significantly affected the daily lives of the older adult residents, causing them to skip grocery shopping, miss opportunities to visit friends and family or attend religious services. Some have fallen or have been injured in the parking lots, the suit states.
The legal action alleges violations of the Fair Housing Act, the New York Human Rights Law and the Ohio Civil Rights Act.
The lawsuit specifically identifies Ohio communities Lorain Pointe Senior Apartments in Lorain, Southpark Square Senior Apartments in Strongsville, Parma Village Senior Apartments in Parma, Olmsted Falls Senior Apartments in Olmsted Falls, Eden Park Senior Apartments in Hamilton, Fairfield Village Senior Apartments in Fairfield, and Ivy Pointe Senior Apartments in Cincinnati.
Pennsylvania communities named in the suit include Lafayette Square Senior Apartments in Oakdale, Green Ridge Senior Apartments in Scranton, Harborcreek Senior Apartments in Erie, and Oak Hill Senior Apartments in Taylor.
New York communities named are Camillus Pointe Senior Apartments in Camillus, Buckley Square Senior Apartments in Syracuse, New Hartford Square Senior Apartments in Whitesboro, Morgan Square Senior Apartments in Clay, Reynolds Pointe Senior Apartments in Johnson City, South Pointe Senior Apartments in Hamburg, Sweethome Senior Apartments in Amherst, and Orchard Place Senior Apartments in Lackawanna.
The plaintiffs said they seek compensatory and punitive damages as well as an end to the alleged discriminatory practices.