Charlie Roberts, the builder and owner of Bentley Place Apartments in Tucker, Georgia, said that he would pay $4,000 to Atlanta's Metro Fair Housing Services and retrofit the newly constructed apartments in order to settle an accessibility complaint filed with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo announced he settlement in November
Doors too heavy for wheelchair users at complex
Metro Fair Housing Services alleged in its complaint that Bentley Place had features that id not meet the Fair Housing Act's accessibility requirements. They also asserted that persons with physical disabilities were unable to use features in units and common areas.
Both interior and exterior doors, according to the complaint, were too heavy to be opened or closed by someone with a physical disability. Some first floor apartments had no accessible entrances for wheelchair users. Finally, mailboxes and trash receptacles were too high to be reached by wheelchair users.
The 117-unit complex also offered residents a swimming pool, a fitness center, and anon-site laundry. Fair housing laws also require that these common areas be accessible. Metro Fair Housing Services questioned the accessibility of these common areas in the complaint.
Roberts said that he was not upset about the complaint against him. He told HUD officials that the experience turned out to be "educational." Roberts, who has been in the construction business for 25 years in Georgia, said, "It is the law of the land and it is a reasonable law. An education process needs to take place between architects, contractors, and subcontractors. We all need to be more aware of the new way of doing things." The Fair Housing Amendment Act's accessibility requirements were passed by Congress in 1988 and took effect in 1991.
Secretary Cuomo said that inaccessible buildings are simply not acceptable."People with disabilities have the right to live where they choose," Cuomo said."There is no acceptable reason for newly constructed apartments to be unusable by people with disabilities. It's unfair, it's illegal, and this Department won't tolerate it."