The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a civil rights lawsuit against a Grand Forks property manager alleging at least five properties and a rental office violate the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The lawsuit, filed Monday, March 16, in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, claims that the apartment buildings and office, designed and constructed by Grand Forks-based Hampton Corporation Inc., have significant physical accessibility barriers, effectively discriminating against renters with disabilities, according to the complaint.
The Grand Forks properties with the alleged ADA violations are Times Square Townhomes II, 3001 36th Ave. S., Steeple Apartments, on the 2000 block of 36th Avenue South, Carrington Court Townhouse Apartments, on the 2000 block of South 34th Street, South Hampton Townhome Apartments, on the 3000 block of 36th Avenue South, Townhomes at Charleswood, 1908 Burlington Drive in West Fargo, and the Times Square rental office, also located at 3001 36th Ave. S. and serving the Grand Forks properties named in the complaint.
Other defendants include Buxton, N.D.-based Hepper Olson Architects, Grand Forks-based Pribula Engineering, and Grand Forks-based developer HDD Inc., which each had a role in designing, constructing or owning the violating properties, according to the complaint, as well as Daniel Stauss, of Grand Forks, president of Hampton Corporation, and Scott Stauss, of East Grand Forks, who has acted on behalf of Hampton Corporation. Both men are partial owners of the properties who participated in the design and construction of the violating properties, the complaint alleges, and are accused of Fair Housing Act violations.
Daniel and Scott Stauss could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon, March 18.
The U.S. recently obtained property plans of the properties in question and conducted on-site inspections as well, according to the complaint. Plans and inspections showed units had doors with non-compliant openings, bathrooms and kitchens with insufficient clear floor space, excessive slopes, lack of accessible parking and other violations, the complaint alleges.
Other non-compliant features listed in the complaint include knob-style door hardware rather than lever-style, steps and other non-compliant thresholds at primary entrances and concrete back patios more than four inches below the units' finished floor levels.
The complaint also alleged that the Times Square rental office was constructed with a ramp that has a noncompliant level change, a walkway with a noncompliant step, a rent payment box that is not located on an accessible route and designated accessible parking that does not have an accessible aisle.
The accessibility violations exist at 116 units constructed over about a 15-year period.
The lawsuit is seeking a court order prohibiting the defendants from constructing properties in the future that discriminate against people with disabilities, as well as an order requiring them to make modifications to the existing properties to bring them into compliance. The suit also requests monetary damages to people harmed by the lack of accessibility and payment of civil penalties. A hearing date has yet to be set in the case.