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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. Applause, applause, applause ..... but, is this duty to serve the constitutional order not much more incumbent upon the State, whose only aim is to be pure and unadulterated justice, than defense counsel, who is also charged with gaining a result for a client? I agree both are responsible, but it seems to me that the government attorneys bear a burden much heavier than defense counsel .... "“I note, much as we did in Mechling v. State, 16 N.E.3d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, that the attorneys representing the State and the defendant are both officers of the court and have a responsibility to correct any obvious errors at the time they are committed."

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  3. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  4. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  5. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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