Avalon Agrees to Change Policies After Allegations Landlord Refused to Install Grab Bars
Disabled Tenant Hurt After Avalon Delayed Installing Needed Equipment
BOSTON – AvalonBay Communities, Inc. (“Avalon”), one of the state’s largest residential landlords, has agreed to implement new policies affecting all of its Massachusetts properties to resolve allegations that the company discriminated against a tenant with disabilities, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. Managers at the Avalon at Bedford Center property had allegedly failed to install requested grab bars in the tenant’s bathroom in a timely manner, causing the tenant to injure herself.
“Avalon will be putting safeguards in place to ensure that this will never happen again,” said AG Coakley. “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 the AG’s Office, Avalon will pay $7,500 to the injured resident. Additionally, the landlord will implement a number of new policies affecting all of its Massachusetts properties to ensure that it acts swiftly in responding to future requests for reasonable accommodations.
When a property owner or manager receives a tenant request for an accommodation, the owner or manager must take steps to communicate with the tenant and identify whether or not it is reasonable to provide an accommodation. Avalon will make immediate changes to ensure that all reasonable accommodation requests are responded to within 10 business days. The Attorney General’s 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.
Avalon must also 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 Massachusetts. Earlier this year, AG Coakley resolved a lawsuit against Avalon alleging the company discriminated against a family with young children in its Woburn apartment complex. Massachusetts fair housing law prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s disability and requires landlords to make accommodations for a tenant’s disability when reasonable
Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Miller and Paralegal Bethany Brown of Attorney General Coakley’s Civil Rights Division handled this matter.