CINCINNATI — Federal authorities are suing an Ohio-based real estate and construction company they said violated two federal civil rights laws.
Eighty-two apartment complexes designed and built by Miller-Valentine in 13 states, comprising more than 3,000 rental units, fail to meet the minimum standards of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S. Attorney Ben Glassman said Thursday. The civil was complaint was filed jointly by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
The properties "contain numerous, egregious accessibility barriers, including steps, inaccessible routes, and kitchens and bathrooms in units with inaccessible features and a lack of space for wheelchair users to maneuver," the complaint states.
The properties listed in the lawsuit were built between 1996 and 2012, a period when both laws were already in effect, Glassman said. Also, 65 of the properties were built with some kind of public assistance, such as tax credits or Housing and Urban Development funding, which require the properties meet all federal standards.
Authorities are seeking an order making Miller-Valentine bring all those properties up to the standards set by the FHA and ADA. They're also seeking a civil penalty.
Glassman said authorities are also hoping the suit prevents any more properties from being built in ways that don't meet federal standards.
"I hope this shows, among other things, that we are in the business of enforcing federal civil rights laws to the fullest extent of the law," he said. "It doesn't matter to us whether the defendant is an individual in a single neighborhood or it's a company that's operating in many states."
Miller-Valentine CEO Elizabeth Mangan said in a written statement Thursday afternoon that the company had not yet had the chance to review the lawsuit.
"I can say that Miller-Valentine Operations is a great company that prides itself on providing housing in communities serving a full range of residents," Mangan said. "We hire professionals to ensure that all of our properties are designed and constructed to be accessible, adaptable and usable by persons with disabilities. We have been building multifamily communities for more than two decades and have always hired reputable design and engineering firms to ensure compliance with federal, state and local accessibility codes. Miller-Valentine Operations does not engage in or support discrimination in any form and we are not aware of complaints from residents regarding accessibility of our apartment homes."
Tri-State buildings listed in the complaint include Aspen Grove Apartments in Middletown, Deerfield Crossing in Lebanon, Harbour Cove Apartments in Cincinnati, Indian Trace I and Indian Trace II in Oxford, Lofts at One West High Street in Oxford, Mallard Glen in Amelia, Meadow View South in Springboro, Riverview Bluffs in New Richmond, St. Bernard Commons in St. Bernard, Timber Glen II in Batavia, Summit Pointe in Lawrenceburg, Indiana and Weaver Farm Apartments in Florence, Kentucky.
Other buildings are located in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. The full list is available on the Department of Justice's website.
Glassman said authorities also want to hear from anyone with information about the properties regarding the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Anyone with information can call 1-800-896-7743 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check back for more on this developing story.