A formal complaint alleges a Richmond assisted living community is discriminating against the disabled. Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) has filed a housing discrimination complaint against The Towers Retirement Community. It is located off Carnation Street.
Residents with motorized wheelchairs are required to sign a "power mobility device addendum."
"The policy needs to go," said Helen Hardiman with HOME. "You are blatantly discriminating, and HUD is going to investigate."
Residents who want to have a motorized wheelchair must pay a $1500 security deposit in addition to the original $2500 deposit. They are also required to obtain motorized wheelchair liability insurance of no less than $100,000.
"By charging them extra fees and preventing them from using your transportation that's illegal under the fair housing act," said Hardiman. "I don't think there is much discussion."
We went inside to get our own copy of the power mobility device addendum. We did not leave empty handed, but at least one line was missing from our copy.
"I'm quoting here," read Hardiman from her copy of the addendum. "All residents are reminded that operating a power mobility device is a privilege not a right."
Hardiman says that quote alone is disturbing.
"I think the fair housing act would say different," said Hardiman.
We got the following statement from The Towers:
Beaufont Towers Retirement & Assisted Living Community and Retirement Unlimited, Inc. has obtained a copy of the fair housing complaints filed by Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a particular individual. The particulars of the complaints are currently being investigated.
To clarify, no lawsuit has been filed against The Towers nor against Retirement Unlimited. HUD provides for an administrative process whereby members of the public may file complaints related to housing issues. The Towers and Retirement Unlimited, of course, consider all complaints, no matter how they are received, serious matters, and we plan to thoroughly investigate and respond to these complaints through the process provided by HUD.
The safety and wellbeing of our residents is paramount. It is standard practice to conduct an assessment for individuals entering an assisted living facility such, as The Towers in Richmond, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of their general health and to assess that the use of mobility devices-if needed- are appropriate to the individual based on his or her therapeutic needs and can be safely operated with regard to other residents in the community.
The Towers does not refuse housing or transportation services to individuals who require the use of a motorized device. In the event that a device exceeds size, weight or safety requirements for housing or transportation needs, great care is taken to provide safe alternatives to residents to ensure their needs are met.
-Tara Davis-Ragland, M.S.A., L.N.H.A.
Hardiman is convinced some residents are due compensation.
"Paying a security deposit and liability insurance doesn't prevent someone from getting in an accident," said Hardiman. "And all of your residents that have used these power scooters...for however many years you've been operating that you've charged these extra fees to...need to get refunded."
We asked the executive director why NBC 12's copy of the addendum had different language.
"Please understand that ALL documents are working documents subject to changes due to a multitude of reasons," said Tara Davis-Ragland.
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