Urgent Regulatory Alert: Increased Lawsuit Activity

Advocacy News ,
 Urgent Regulatory Alert: Increased Lawsuit Activity
 
In recent weeks, FAA members across the state have been targeted in lawsuits related to website accessibility and discrimination based on disparate impact. Please review the important reminders below and take the action necessary to reduce your liability.
 
 
WEBSITE ACCESSIBILITY LAWSUIT ACTIVITY:
In recent years, websites have become a target for what are commonly referred to as "drive-by" lawsuits. These lawsuits claim websites violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because they are not accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired. In most cases, these complaints seek court-ordered remediation of the websites, attorneys’ fees, and monetary compensation. 
 
In light of the recent lawsuit activity in Florida that has targeted apartment communities, it is critical for FAA members to review their websites to ensure compliance with ADA requirements.
 
What steps can you take to avoid liability?
  1. Review NAA's ADA Website Accessibility Litigation Memo.
  2. Consult your website provider to see if they have the ability to identify ADA compliance issues.
  3. If needed, obtain a digital accessibility consultant to perform an audit of your website to ensure the content and coding complies with ADA requirements. The results of this audit may require you to make various changes to your website to ensure compliance.
 
 
CRIMINAL SCREENING LAWSUIT ACTIVITY:
These lawsuits allege that an individual who is a convicted felon called an apartment community to inquire about renting. During the call, he disclosed his felony conviction background and, he alleges, the apartment community staff stated over the phone that his criminal background would result in an automatic denial of the application.
 
We would like to take this opportunity to remind you that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued guidance in 2016 regarding how criminal screening policies could be in violation of the Fair Housing Act, under what is known as disparate impact.
 
A disparate impact results from policies that have a discriminatory effect, even if the discrimination is unintended. According to HUD, certain policies, such as blanket policies against any individual with a criminal background, may negatively impact certain races and therefore have a disparate impact. In light of the recent lawsuit activity in Florida, it is critical for FAA members to review their current policies related to criminal screening and ensure all staff members who answer the phone are properly trained.
 
What steps can you take to avoid liability?
  1. Review the HUD guidance that was issued in April 2016.
  2. Read NAA's Criminal Conviction Screening Policies: Best Practices to Avoid Disparate Impact Liability
  3. Review the additional NAA resources related to this topic.
  4. Assess your criminal screening policy to determine if any changes should be made to avoid disparate impact liability.
  5. Contact your attorney or in-house legal counsel for guidance and advice.
 
 
We hope this information is helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact me at amanda@faahq.org if you have any questions.
 
Sincerely,
 
Amanda Gill
Government Affairs Director
Florida Apartment Association
 
The information included in this email is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. For specific legal advice regarding your company's policies and procedures, please consult your attorney.