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Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana v. United Church Residences of Indianapolis, Indiana, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

December 1, 2016

FAIR HOUSING CENTER OF CENTRAL INDIANA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED CHURCH RESIDENCES OF INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         This cause is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Defendants, United Church Residences of Indianapolis, Indiana, Inc., (“UCR”); United Church Homes, Inc., (“UCH”); and Shea Hodowaniec. Dkt. No. 19. The motion is fully briefed, and the Court, being duly advised, GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the motion for the reasons set forth below.

         I. STANDARD

         The Defendants move to dismiss the Plaintiffs' Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that the Complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted. In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court “must accept all well pled facts as true and draw all permissible inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Agnew v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 683 F.3d 328, 334 (7th Cir. 2012). For a claim to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, it must provide the defendant with “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007)) (omission in original). A complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Agnew, 638 F.3d at 334 (citations omitted). A complaint's factual allegations are plausible if they “raise the right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007).

         II. BACKGROUND

         The Plaintiffs, Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, Inc.; Patricia Light; Madonna Quick; Helen Wells; and Carolyn Brock, assert claims under the Fair Housing Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq., and the Indiana Fair Housing Act, Ind. Code § 22-9.5, et seq., against the Defendants. For the purposes of this motion, the Court accepts the following facts as true.

         Capitol Station is a residential apartment building financed by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) to provide housing for people 62 years of age or older. Residents pay 30% of their adjusted monthly income for rent, and the remainder of the rent for each tenant is paid by HUD. Capitol Stations has 48 units. It is a three-story building and has one elevator.

         The Defendants advertise that Capitol Station is wheelchair accessible and has apartments with lots of space for maximum mobility. Many Capitol Station residents have mobility impairments and, due to these impairments, rely on the elevator to access or leave their second- or third-floor apartments. During the months of August and September 2015, Light, Quick, Wells, and Brock (“the Individual Plaintiffs”) were all individuals with disabilities who qualify as disabled under the FHA, and all lived on the third floor at Capitol Station. On or around August 25, 2015, the sole elevator at Capitol Station stopped working. It remained completely out of service for approximately five and a half weeks.

         During the time that the elevator was out of service, Quick underwent knee replacement surgery. Her return to her apartment was delayed due to the lack of elevator service. Brock moved from Capitol Station in November 2015 due to her unhappiness about the elevator outage.

         While the elevator was out of service, many tenants of Capitol Station made many requests to the Defendants for accommodations for themselves and other residents, including help getting groceries and walking dogs. The tenants requested that the elevator be promptly repaired and sought information about when it would be repaired. The Defendants did not engage in an interactive dialogue regarding the requests by the residents. Capitol Station did nothing to help Light, Quick, Wells, Brock, and other residents, some of whom were trapped on the top two floors of the building. Capitol Station promised that volunteers would assist, but no volunteers ever did.

         Hodowaniec, an employee of UCR and/or UCH, told one of the Individual Plaintiffs that she was hired to take care of the building, not the residents. Hodowaniec took a one-week vacation during the time the elevator was out of service. She did not engage in an interactive dialogue with or provide any of the tenants with reasonable accommodations.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against “any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b). The Act also makes it unlawful to “coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his having exercised or enjoyed, or on account of his having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by section 3603, 3604, 3605, or 3606 of this title.” 42 U.S.C. § 3617. The Act governs conduct regardless of whether it occurs before or after a tenant or owner has acquired a property interest in a dwelling. See Bloch v. Frischolz, 587 F.3d 771, 780-82 (7th Cir. 2009) (en banc).

         The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 amended the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to extend protection to people with disabilities. Pub. L. No. 100-430, 102 Stat. 1619, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq. In addition to bringing disabled persons within the FHA's ambit, the amendments expanded the definition of unlawful discrimination. Section 3604(f)(3)(B) defines discrimination to include “a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such [disabled] person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” A disabled individual alleging unlawful housing discrimination can rely on any of ...


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