Recently built CNY senior housing complexes sued over upcharges for people with disabilities | #seniorliving | #elderly | #seniors
Syracuse, NY — A rapidly growing company building suburban senior living facilities across Central New York is being sued over accusations that it illegally upcharges tenants with breathing issues, arthritis and other common disabilities.
Clover Group, of Williamsville, has built and manages several local complexes aimed at middle-class senior living: Camillus Pointe, on Milton Avenue; Buckley Square, in Salina and Morgan Square, in Clay; as well as facilities in New Hartford and Binghamton.
Rents are $1,000 or so a month. But the company then adds charges for amenities that the elderly disabled often require: a reserved parking space (up to one-time $350 fee) or in-building amenities like being near an elevator or having grab handles (a $25 to $35-a-month upcharge), according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.
Those types of services should not cost the disabled elderly more, under longstanding “reasonable accommodations” law, the lawsuit states.
“Nickel and diming residents because of their disability needs is egregious in any situation,” said Sally Santangelo, executive director of CNY Fair Housing, which filed the lawsuit along with housing advocates in two other states.
While a parking space may seem like a small issue, it has kept residents from attending church, going shopping or visiting friends and family, Santangelo said. Some feel a prisoner inside their own homes.
CNY Fair Housing began investigating Clover Group about three years ago over complaints from elderly residents at Camillus Pointe, Santangelo said. The non-profit then reached out to its partners in multiple states to investigate similar issues at Clover Group properties in Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well.
The housing groups brought their concerns to Clover Group, which did nothing to change its practices, Santangelo said.
That’s when CNY Fair Housing and its sister groups in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo and Cincinnati joined in legal action. Their lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Upstate’s federal court, which includes Syracuse.
The legal question surrounds what “reasonable accommodations” a facility must make to avoid discriminating against someone with a disability. Federal rules, for example, clearly state that a reserved parking space is a mandatory reasonable accommodation for someone with a disability, Santangelo said.
Clover Group, which could not immediately be reached for comment, has been on a building boom in the past several years, according to its website, with multiple new properties being developed each year. The Central New York facilities have all opened in the past five years or so, Santangelo said.
The lawsuit seeks a court order for Clover Group to stop charging more for reasonable accommodations, money to repay tenants for the higher rents and punitive damages (punishment) against Clover Group, as well as attorney’s fees.
Staff writer Douglass Dowty can be reached at email@example.com or 315-470-6070.