The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a settlement today in a disability discrimination complaint brought by a couple against the architect, builder and developer of a condo project in Carolina, Puerto Rico.
Salvador O’Neill, who has Parkinson’s disease, and his wife, Carmen, had filed the lawsuit against Verde Isla Court Inc., QB Construction and Gutierrez-Latimer C.S.P, the developer, builder, and architect of the Astralis Residences and Club, charging that the condo development is not accessible to persons with disabilities, according to a HUD announcement.
“HUD’s investigation revealed that the developer, builder, and architect of Astralis failed to design and construct the dwelling units and common areas in accordance with the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements for multifamily dwellings covered by the act,” the agency reported.
The law requires that public and common-use areas be accessible to persons with disabilities and that all doors allow passage by persons in wheelchairs and that kitchens and bathrooms are usable by wheelchair.
HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity in Puerto Rico worked to identify violations, review design solutions, and negotiate an agreement. Through the settlement, the developer and the architect agree to make the couple’s condo unit “fully compliant with the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act,” HUD announced, and the developer, architect, builder and Astralis Condominium Residents Association have agreed to reimburse the O’Neills $3,750 worth of expenses.
Verde Isla Court Inc. also has agreed to:
- Make common-area modifications that include adding accessible routes throughout the property and fully accessible bathrooms inside the gym and the meeting room.
- Issue a bank letter of commitment for a $1 million performance bond to the United States in the event the respondents fail to comply with the settlement agreement.
- Notify all present owners of the Astralis Residences and Club of the availability, at no cost to them, to have their units fully or partially retrofitted to include the accessibility features required by the Fair Housing Act. Available modifications include widening doorways in master bedrooms and bathrooms and installing electrical outlets in accessible locations.
The agreement also states that the Astralis Condominium Residents Association will preserve and maintain eight accessible parking spaces and that Gutierrez Latimer C.S.P. will sponsor a fair-housing conference for the housing industry in Puerto Rico.
“The resolution we were able to reach in this case is a win not only for the O’Neills, but also the other residents of the Astralis Residences and Club,” said Kim Kendrick, HUD’s assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, in a statement.