(Grand Forks, ND) A client of High Plains Fair Housing Center with a physical disability settled a housing discrimination case with the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights in August, 2021 against a previous landlord who repeatedly denied her an assigned accessible parking space. Lorraine Eastman of Grand Forks, ND requested a reserved parking space at her apartment complex near the doors due to mobility issues caused by a disability over the period of 7 months in 2019.
The apartment complex did have an unassigned accessible spot open for anyone, but it was far from the doors near the elevator and tucked away on the side of the garages. In addition, it was often used to store extra snow in the winter, making it unusable for a large portion of the year. The repeated denial of a reserved spot closer to the doors made it difficult for Ms. Eastman to get to her car, especially when the walkways were covered with snow in the winter.
The Fair Housing Act allows consumers with a physical or mental disability to ask for reasonable accommodations of rules or policies to access and enjoy their housing similar to how persons without a disability can. A basic task like walking across a parking lot to an entrance can be very difficult for a person with a physical disability, especially when the walkways are covered with snow in the winter. In this case, a request for a reserved spot near the door instead of the one that came with her unit far from the building was not granted repeatedly over a period of 6 months. This created a barrier for the tenant, forcing her to move.
The client was aware of her fair housing rights and contacted High Plains Fair Housing Center. She asked for assistance in filing an administrative housing discrimination complaint with the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights in June of 2020. Through the conciliation process and with no admission of guilt by the apartment complex, Eastman received relief in the amount of $4200 from the property owner. In addition, the property owner is required to provide fair housing brochures to all other tenants at the property as well as require all staff to attend fair housing training in the near future.
"According to the CDC, 1 out of 4 adults in North Dakota are considered to have a disability. The denial of an accessible parking space and which forces a tenant to find new housing is discouraging”, said Michelle Rydz, Executive Director of High Plains Fair Housing Center. "Housing discrimination has no place in our community. This settlement is another step toward increasing accountability for fair housing violations and may deter similar acts of discrimination to ensure our communities are open and inclusive for persons with disabilities".
High Plains Fair Housing Center is a statewide non-profit that works to ensure equal access to housing through education, outreach, advocacy, and enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. Fair Housing is a right protected by federal and state laws and means you may freely choose a place to live without regard to your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, because you have a disability, have children in your family, or because you are on public assistance. If you feel you are a victim of housing discrimination, please call High Plains Fair Housing Center’s intake line at 701-203-1077 or toll-free at 1-866-380-2738. Find out more at www.highplainsfhc.org