Hickory apartment complex settles complaint alleging disability discrimination

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RALEIGH · Feb. 5, 2018 – Legal Aid of North Carolina announced that the owner, and former and current managers of an apartment complex in Hickory, N.C., had settled a housing discrimination complaint alleging that they had discriminated against a resident with a disability. As a result of the settlement, the owner and managers of the Villas at Northview, who denied engaging in discrimination, will adopt new fair housing policies for people with disabilities, attend training in fair housing law, and pay collectively a total of $15,000 in damages and costs to Ms. Jerilyne Johnson, the tenant who brought the complaint.

The case involved Ms. Johnson’s request to have a parking space near her unit to accommodate her mobility limitations, some of which were caused by multiple sclerosis. While parking at the complex is typically “first come, first serve,” fair housing laws require housing providers to make “reasonable accommodations” to rules and policies to allow people with disabilities an equal opportunity to live in a dwelling.

Ms. Johnson made her initial written request for a reserved parking space in 2014. After her request was denied several months later, she filed her fair housing complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) against the owners and managers of the complex: Villas at Northview, LLC; Intermark Management Corporation; Vista Capital Management Group, Inc.; and Brenda Cranford (collectively known as “Respondents”).

The complaint was referred by HUD to the North Carolina Human Relations Commission (NCHRC) for investigation. Respondents eventually granted Ms. Johnson’s request for a reserved parking space. The NCHRC found “reasonable cause” to believe that the Respondents had engaged in an unlawful housing practice by refusing to approve Ms. Johnson’s request for over a year. Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Fair Housing Project represented Ms. Johnson in settlement negotiations.

“Ms. Johnson did not believe what happened was right, educated herself about the protections of the Fair Housing Act, and then did something about it – all on her own,” said Kelly Clarke, attorney at the Fair Housing Project of Legal Aid who assisted Ms. Johnson in the settlement negotiations. “I am just glad we could help her finish what she started.”

The law prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability.

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Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Learn more at LegalAidNC.org.

Legal Aid’s Fair Housing Project works to eliminate housing discrimination and to ensure equal housing opportunity for all people through education, outreach, public policy initiatives, advocacy and enforcement. North Carolinians who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination can contact the Fair Housing Project at 1-855-797-3247 or info@fairhousingnc.org. The project’s work on this case was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program. Learn more about the project and fair housing laws at FairHousingNC.org.

Media Contact

Sean Driscoll, Director of Public Relations, Legal Aid of N.C., 919-856-2132, SeanD@legalaidnc.org