"Continuing" Fair Housing Violations Not Barred by Statute of Limitations
Facts: Five fair housing organizations sued the builders and owners of 82 multifamily apartment complexes, alleging that the builders constructed the complexes in a manner that denied access to disabled persons, in violation of the Fair Housing Amendments Act. The builders and owners designed and built the apartment complexes, with over 22,000 units, in 10 states between 1991 and 2007. The fair housing organizations claimed that the builders and owners “engaged in a continuous pattern and practice of discrimination against people with disabilities” by “designing and/or constructing” apartment complexes that deny full access to and use of the facilities as required under the law.
The builders and owners asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that some of the claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations under the law. The court refused to dismiss the case, and the builders and owners appealed, arguing that the court should reconsider their request in light of the Ninth Circuit's decision in a similar case, Garcia v. Brockway [Month, Year TK].
Decision: The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denied the defendants' request for reconsideration.
Reasoning: Despite the Garcia decision, the court stood by its ruling that the fair housing organizations were not barred from seeking relief for complexes that were designed and constructed more than two years before they filed their complaint, if they were designed and constructed pursuant to a pattern or practice that continued into the statute of limitations period. The court concluded that the fair housing organizations had clearly alleged a “continuing violation” of the law and that none of the claims against the builders and owners were barred by the statute of limitations. The court disagreed with defendants' argument that the Garcia case made the continuing violation doctrine inapplicable to “design and construct” discrimination claims.
- National Fair Housing Alliance, Inc. v. Spanos, September 2008