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Discriminating Against Tenants with Disabilities

Cooper v. Senior Citizens Housing of Ann Arbor (E.D. Mich.) (Aging in Place/Social Connectedness) – AARP Foundation filed a lawsuit against an affordable senior housing apartment complex in downtown Ann Arbor for discriminating against its tenants with disabilities by forcing them to move out through harassment and intimidation.  We are joined by co-counsel Legal Services of South Central Michigan and the University of Michigan Clinical Law Program in representing Clark Cooper, a former resident of Lurie Terrace, Gartha Parrish, a current resident, and the Lurie Terrace Tenants Association, an organization formed to advocate for residents’ rights.  Mr. Cooper, who has autism and a hearing impairment, lived at Lurie Terrace for twelve years until a new property manager revoked longstanding accommodations the complex had made for Cooper’s disabilities and contacted his family, threatening to evict him if he didn’t leave immediately.  Ms. Parrish, who currently lives at Lurie Terrace, also has a disability.  She has witnessed Lurie Terrace’s management targeting other residents with disabilities, and she is afraid that she will be next.  The suit alleges that Lurie Terrace’s policies and practices violate the federal Fair Housing Act and Michigan state law, including the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

Lurie Terrace harasses tenants it perceives as unable to “live independently” – a phrase that has no legal definition and is predicated only upon the landlord’s subjective ideas about how people with disabilities live their lives.  We argue that Lurie Terrace uses the notion of “independent living” to force tenants with disabilities to move, even if those tenants are meeting all the requirements of the lease.  We are asking the court to recognize Lurie Terrace’s practices as discriminatory and prevent the complex from forcing tenants with disabilities to leave their homes when they remain capable of meeting all of their lease obligations.  The defendants recently filed an answer, and we will now proceed with discovery.