On August 27, 2007, the United States Department of Justice and Covenant Retirement Communities West, Inc. (“Covenant”) entered into a Consent Order resolving United States of
America v. Covenant Retirement Communities West, Inc., a disability discrimination action brought under the federal Fair Housing Act in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. The Consent Order established a $530,000 common fund for paying damages to aggrieved persons and requires that each person whom Covenant previously required to take a motorized mobility aid test be paid compensation both for their time taking the test and for the test fee. The Consent Order also required a $30,000 payment to “vindicate the public
interest” under the Fair Housing Act.
The Fair Housing Act was originally enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or disability by providers of housing, including owner-operators of continuing care facilities such as
Covenant. In order to bring a civil action to enforce the Fair Housing Act, the Justice Department must allege (1) a pattern or practice of discrimination of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act; or, (2) a denial of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act that raises an issue of general public importance.
The lawsuit encompassed certain continuing care retirement communities. The disability discrimination claims centered on Covenant’s policies and procedures with respect to residents and potential residents who were “handicapped,” as defined in the Fair Housing Act, because they used mobility devices such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters. In its lawsuit, the Department of Justice alleged that Covenant had violated the Fair Housing Act in the following ways.....(SEE FULL NEWSLETTER).
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