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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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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