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Housing group sues Buckingham over apartment accessibility

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A not-for-profit fair housing group is suing Indianapolis-based Buckingham Cos., claiming the apartment developer has ignored government rules requiring accommodations for people with physical disabilities.

The Washington, D.C.-based National Fair Housing Alliance and two of its member groups, including the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, allege in a lawsuit filed Friday that four of Buckingham’s properties violate Fair Housing Act accessibility requirements.

The apartment complexes listed in the suit: Providence at Old Meridian in Carmel; The Reserve at Williams Glen in Zionsville; Champion Farms Apartments at Springhurst in Louisville; and the Apartments at Grand Prairie in Peoria, Ill.

"We have not had the opportunity to thoroughly review the complaint," Buckingham Tuesday said in a prepared statement. "Compliance with federal, state and local law has always been and remains a priority."

The suit claims Buckingham and its affiliated companies have built apartment complexes since 2001 with unfriendly features for people with disabilities, including access blocked by parked cars, insufficient floor space to accommodate wheelchairs, doors that are too narrow and thermostat units placed out of reach.

“These blatant violations, and many others, effectively communicate that people with disabilities are not welcome at [Buckingham] properties,” the suit claims.

At issue is a 1988 law that requires apartment buildings with more than four units built for occupancy after March 1991 to meet certain requirements. Ground-floor units and those served by elevators must have accessible routes into and out of apartments, doors wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, ample space to maneuver a wheelchair in bathrooms and kitchens, and light switches and thermostat controls within reach of a person in a wheelchair.

The National Fair Housing Alliance issued a news release Tuesday announcing its suit against Buckingham.

“It has been more than 20 years since the effective date of the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements, and builders are continuing to build apartments that effectively bar people with disabilities from the premises,” said Morgan Williams, the alliance’s director of enforcement and investigations, in the release. “It’s unfortunate to see the violations we do when developers now have clear and straightforward federal standards to follow to ensure that properties are accessible for everyone.”

The lawsuit is part of a nationwide crackdown on apartment developers who fail to follow federal guidelines for accessibility.

In October, S.C. Bodner Co., another Indianapolis-based apartment developer, settled a similar suit filed against it by the Fair Housing Alliance in August 2010.

And last month, the organization reached a settlement with HHHunt Corp., in which the Virginia-based firm agreed to renovate more than 1,200 units at nine complexes to make them accessible.

The alliance’s suit against Buckingham, filed in a U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, is asking the court to find the company in violation of the law, order it to stop renting units until it brings complexes into compliance, to survey each of Buckingham’s properties to assess compliance, and to award compensatory and punitive damages.

Buckingham also is developing CityWay, the $155 million apartment, retail, office and hotel project at South and Delaware streets in downtown Indianapolis.

The 100 units included in the first phase are fully occupied. Three more residential buildings with a total of 150 units are scheduled for completion in the spring of 2013.

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  1. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  2. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  3. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

  4. Been on social security sense sept 2011 2massive strokes open heart surgery and serious ovarian cancer and a blood clot in my lung all in 14 months. Got a letter in may saying that i didn't qualify and it was in form like i just applied ,called social security she said it don't make sense and you are still geting a check in june and i did ,now i get a check from my part D asking for payment for july because there will be no money for my membership, call my prescription coverage part D and confirmed no check will be there.went to social security they didn't want to answer whats going on just said i should of never been on it .no one knows where this letter came from was California im in virginia and been here sense my strokes and vcu filed for my disability i was in the hospital when they did it .It's like it was a error . My ,mothers social security was being handled in that office in California my sister was dealing with it and it had my social security number because she died last year and this letter came out of the same office and it came at the same time i got the letter for my mother benefits for death and they had the same date of being typed just one was on the mail Saturday and one on Monday. . I think it's a mistake and it should been fixed instead there just getting rid of me .i never got a formal letter saying when i was being tsken off.

  5. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

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