Mass. landlord agrees to disability policies
BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Wednesday that one of the state's largest residential landlords has agreed to implement new policies to resolve allegations that the company discriminated against a tenant with disabilities.
Managers at AvalonBay Communities Inc.'s Avalon at Bedford Center property allegedly failed to install requested grab bars in the tenant's bathroom in a timely manner, resulting in the tenant injuring herself.
"Avalon will be putting safeguards in place to ensure that this will never happen again," Coakley said. "Massachusetts law requires landlords to engage in an interactive process with their tenants with disabilities and to do so quickly. Undue delays and failing to follow up can have significant negative consequences. Landlords have to follow through in order to meet their obligations under the law."
Under the terms of the settlement with Coakley's office, Avalon will pay $7,500 to the injured resident. In addition, the landlord will implement multiple new policies affecting all of its properties in the state to ensure that it acts swiftly in responding to future requests for reasonable accommodations.
When a property manager or owner receives a tenant request for an accommodation, the manager or owner must take steps to communicate with the tenant and identify whether or not it is reasonable to provide the accommodation. Avalon will make immediate changes ensuring that all reasonable accommodation requests are responded to within 10 business days.
The settlement also calls for the mandatory use of a centralized computer database to record the date a tenant makes a request for an accommodation, the date that it is submitted to Avalon, the date Avalon makes a decision and informs the tenant, and the date additional information is provided by the tenant, if requested.
Additionally, Avalon will remove all language from its forms and leases that indicates that a tenant may be responsible for the cost of implementing a reasonable modification.
Avalon owns and operates 25 large residential apartment complexes across the state. Earlier this year, Coakley resolved a lawsuit against Avalon alleging that the company discriminated against a family with young children in its Woburn apartment complex. Fair housing laws in Massachusetts prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person's disability and require landlords make accommodations for a tenant's disability when reasonable.