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National Fair Housing Alliance, Inc. v. Hunt Investments, L.L.C

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

June 2, 2015

NATIONAL FAIR HOUSING ALLIANCE, INC., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
HUNT INVESTMENTS, LLC, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES R. SPENCER, SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on a Motion to Reconsider or, in the Alternative, Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint (“Motion”) (ECF No. 63), filed by Plaintiffs, National Fair Housing Alliance, Inc. (“NFHA”) and Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (“HOME”). Defendants each filed their respective responses in opposition on May 19, 2015 (ECF Nos. 68, 69, 70), and Plaintiffs subsequently filed a reply on May 26, 2015 (“Reply Mem.”) (ECF No. 71)[1]. The United States also filed a Statement of Interest in this matter on May 28, 2015 (“Gov’ts Resp.”) (ECF No. 72). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the Motion.

I. BACKGROUND

a. Factual Background[2]

This is a civil rights action brought by Plaintiffs NFHA[3] and HOME[4] against the developers, builders, designers, and owners of the multifamily apartment complex “Shockoe Valley View Apartments” (also known as “Cedar Street Apartments”) located in Richmond, Virginia, arising from violations of the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (“FHAA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619.[5] Specifically, the Defendants in this case are: Hunt Investments, L.L.C. (“Hunt”), Cedar Street Genesis, LLC (“Cedar Street”), Genesis Homes Manager, LLC (“Genesis Homes”)–all of whom are allegedly responsible for the design and/or construction of the project; Walter Parks, Architect, PLLC (“Parks”)–who is the architect responsible for the design of the project; and MGT Construction Management, Inc. (“MGT”)– who is the general contractor on the project.

The apartment complex project has been divided into phases. Construction is ongoing in Phase 1 (“Tested Property” or “Shockoe”), located at 1900, 1902, and 1904 Cedar Street, Richmond, Virginia 23223. Plaintiffs allege that construction will begin soon on Phase 2, located at 1901, 1903, and 1905 Cedar Street, Richmond, Virginia 23223.

In June 2014, Plaintiffs allege that they became aware that the multifamily housing complex designed and/or constructed by Defendants did not include the required elements of accessible and adaptable design. Plaintiffs therefore sent “testers”[6] to Shockoe in June 2014. The testers were shown four possible rental units at Shockoe, two of which were available to rent immediately. The testers identified alleged FHAA violations in those units and common areas. The testers observed that one portion of Phase 1 was completed and being marketed and rented, while the other portion of Phase 1 was still under construction.

In September 2014, Plaintiffs sent another tester to Shockoe, who was shown two units in Phase 1, both of which were available for rent in the near future. The tester again allegedly identified multiple FHAA violations in those units and common areas. Defendants’ agent also attempted to show the tester the model unit, but the tester, who uses a motorized wheelchair, could not enter the model unit because there were steps leading up to the only entrance. The tester observed a substantial portion of Phase 1 had been constructed and several units in Phase 1 were already occupied.

Further, the blueprints for Shockoe that Defendants submitted to the building department for approval demonstrate that the units that are still under construction at Phase 1 will contain many of the same alleged FHAA design and construction violations identified in the units currently being rented. Those blueprints were approved by the building department and temporary certificates of occupancy have been issued.

b. Procedural Background

Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in this Court on October 21, 2014, requesting declaratory and injunctive relief as well as damages and attorneys’ fees. Defendants subsequently filed Motions to Dismiss. (See ECF No. 6, 9, 12). Those Motions to Dismiss were denied as moot after Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint. (See ECF No. 43.) In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege violations of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(C) at the Tested Property.[7] Plaintiffs further allege that their missions to eradicate discrimination in housing and in carrying out the programs and services they provide have been frustrated, and they have been forced to divert significant and scarce resources to identify, investigate and counteract Defendants’ discriminatory practices. Defendants filed Motions to Dismiss the Amended Complaint on December 10, 2014. (ECF Nos. 30, 32, 34.) After oral argument on April 7, 2015, the Court granted each of the Motions to Dismiss. (See ECF Nos. 60, 61.) Plaintiffs then filed the present Motion on May 8, 2015.[8]

II. LEGAL STANDARD

a. Motion to Reconsider–Rule 59(e)

A motion to reconsider takes the form of a motion to alter or amend a judgment under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See EEOC v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 116 F.3d 110, 112 (4th Cir. 1997). Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions to alter or amend a judgment. The Rule simply provides, “[a] motion to alter or amend a judgment ...


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