NY Co-op fined $125K for violation of Fair Housing Act

Buyer claimed discrimination due to disabilities


By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

Tompkins Manor co-op, and management company West-Ex Associates were named in a recent settlement in a Fair Housing complaint alleging discrimination based on disability status.

According to reports, Michael Forster is a 34-year old man with congenital heart defects, and, due to medical disabilities including previous heart attacks, he is unable to hold a full-time job.

However, Michael’s parents established a trust fund to purchase an apartment and to pay his expenses well into the future. In 2013, Tompkins Manor co-op and its management company rejected Forster’s accepted purchase offer, stating that the association does not allow ownership by trust. Although Forster and his parents explained his disabilities, the co-op refused to make an accommodation to its policies.

Ultimately, the family was able to purchase another apartment in a different town, but due to the stress of the rejection by Tompkins Manor and subsequent search for an alternate home, Forster suffered another heart attack.

Forster filed a Fair Housing complaint shortly thereafter, and the U.S. Attorney for Southern District of New York  announced a $125,000 settlement in July 2017.


Co-op and Management Company Fined $125,000 for Discrimination
White Plains

July 25, 2017 — White Plains co-op settles lawsuit filed by disabled applicant.

In a chilling reminder of the high cost of flouting the Fair Housing Act, a Westchester County co-op and its management company have agreed in federal court to pay $125,000 in compensatory damages and attorney’s fees to an applicant who claimed he was discriminated against because of disabilities.

Joon Kim, the acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the settlement between the applicant and the Tompkins Manor co-op in White Plains and its management company, West-Ex Associates, the Armonk Daily Voice reports. The board must adopt reasonable accommodation policies and application forms approved by the United States, which must be included with all future applications handed out to prospective buyers.

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Tompkins Manor settles fair housing lawsuit with $120K payment

By Bill Heltzel – July 24, 2017

A White Plains housing cooperative and its property manager have agreed to pay $120,000 to a disabled man whose application for an apartment they rejected.

West-Ex Associates Inc., a property management company in Hartsdale, and 505 Central Avenue Corp., owner of Tompkins Manor, a 155-unit co-op in White Plains, settled a lawsuit on July 20 with the U.S. Attorney’s Office over violations of the Fair Housing Act.

The government sued the companies in January on behalf of Michael Forster, 34, of Port Chester, and a trust created by his parents.

The Forsters two years ago reported the incident to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and HUD determined that there was reason to believe that Tompkins Manor had discriminated against them.

Michael Forster, according to the lawsuit, has congenital heart problems and has suffered multiple heart attacks. He has learning disabilities and bouts of depression. His abilities to work, drive or manage money are limited.

In 2005, his parents, Denis and Enid Forster, established an irrevocable trust to ensure that he could support himself even after their deaths.

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Cooperative buyers commonly complain about the stressful and intrusive application and interview process, as well as rejection of their applications for unexplained reasons.

Co-op association purchasing restrictions can be beneficial in some ways. For example, the co-op board can prevent opportunistic investors or financially unqualified buyers from purchasing an apartment, limiting financial risk for shareholders.

However, critics say that the application review process can also result in discrimination against applicants on the basis of race, religious or ethnic background, disability, or familial status.

New York City and State Legislatures are currently considering several bills that would require cooperative associations to notify all applicants of the reason for rejecting an application.

The intent of the legislation is to prevent housing discrimination.

Additionally, some shareholders say that co-op apartments can be difficult to sell, when the board has a reputation for rejecting too many accepted sale contracts.

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