Policies affecting people with disabilities at over 260 retirement residences nationwide will be revised as part of a settlement agreement in a housing discrimination complaint filed by Silver State Fair Housing Council (SSFHC) against Reno Retirement Residence, LLC, and Holiday Retirement Corp. The agreement, approved on August 17, 2006, by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), resolves the housing discrimination complaint filed by SSFHC in February, 2006.

Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), housing providers have the responsibility to provide equal access to housing and housing-related services regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, family status, or disability. Persons with disabilities have the right to ask for reasonable accommodations, or changes to rules, policies, and procedures, in order to fully enjoy their housing.

The HUD complaint was filed by SSFHC based on a complaint received in August, 2005, from a resident of the Sky Peaks Retirement Residence in Reno, NV, who reported that residents of Sky Peaks who use walkers were notified by management that they could no longer bring their walkers on the shuttle bus provided for residents. This barred persons with disabilities who use mobility aids from accessing community transportation provided by Sky Peaks to its residents. Several residents verbally requested that Sky Peaks reasonably accommodate their disabilities by allowing them to use their walkers and other mobility aids on the bus. When the policy did not change, SSFHC sent a letter to Reno Retirement Residence, LLC and Holiday Retirement Corp. reiterating the request to reinstate shuttle service for people who use mobility aids. In addition to sending the letter, SSFHC undertook an educational mailing to all residents of Sky Peaks, advising them of their rights under the Fair Housing Act, and conducted a site marketing survey. A response to SSFHC’s letter by management representatives indicated that Holiday Retirement Corp. was working on a long-term plan to address the needs of residents using walkers at facilities across the country. However, no change was made to the “no walkers” policy. Because Sky Peaks residents did not feel comfortable filing a complaint, SSFHC filed its complaint with HUD alleging discriminatory terms, condition, privileges, or services and facilities because of disability.

As part of its process of investigation and conciliation, HUD staff, working with attorneys of the parties involved, crafted an agreement that will result in policy changes at over 260 properties nationwide. A reasonable accommodation policy (approved by HUD) will be adopted and disseminated to all residents of properties managed by Holiday Retirement Corp. in the United States. A written plan to provide transportation for residents who use wheelchairs will also be created. The agreement reimburses SSFHC $5,000 for frustration of its mission and diversion of resources and provides $1,050 for attorney’s fees incurred by SSFHC. Additional affirmative relief includes fair housing training for Reno Retirement Residence, LLC and Holiday Retirement Corp. management staffs.

SSFHC Executive Director Katherine Knister states that, “Silver State Fair Housing Council is committed to ensuring equal housing opportunity for all residents of northern Nevada. We are pleased that all parties in this case were able to work together to effect policy changes that will benefit not only members of our community but also residents of retirement communities nationwide.”