A Real-Life Claim Situation Involving an ADA violation
A residential leasing agent was responsible for the solicitation, evaluation, and securing of tenants in a multi-unit residential apartment complex on behalf of its owners, a Limited Liability Company owned by brothers. Shortly after the marketing process began, the first applicant to view the property arrived with a service dog and immediately expressed interest in renting one of the available units. The agent had her complete an application, then arranged for a background check.
Even though the background check revealed the applicant had an excellent credit rating, the landlord refused to rent the apartment to her over concerns that the dog would damage the flooring or harm other tenants. The landlord instructed the agent to inform the applicant that her application was denied and that all units had been rented.
When the agent conveyed the intentions of the landlord, it was a clear violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended ("ADA").
The applicant sued the landlord and the agent, alleging they violated ADA laws when denied the opportunity to lease the property because of her physical disabilities. The ensuing evidence produced during the litigation's discovery phase disclosed that other units remained vacant for many months-evidence detrimental to the defense of the case for either the landlord or agent. After incurring thousands of dollars in legal fees, the case was settled for a relatively significant amount.
ADA violations have been brought against brokers who fail to do what's "readily achievable with reasonable effort and expense" to serve clients with disabilities. This also includes making sure your office is accessible to people with disabilities by providing ramps, curb breaks, and other considerations. Attending educational seminars on ADA and the Fair Housing Act, among others, will certainly help ensure adherence to laws when serving the public. It will help you better serve clients protected by these laws while providing a blueprint for identifying potential violations in marketing material and the instructions given by owners in the sale and leasing of housing.
Article reprinted with the permission of Pearl Insurance