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ND High Court Decides Housing Discrimination Act has Time Limits

July 29, 2009

Bismarck, ND - The North Dakota Supreme Court has decided that some provisions of the state's Housing Discrimination Act have time limits. It ruled that a Fargo man waited too long to file a complaint against an apartment owner whose building was not accessible to those with disabilities, suggesting that there is a two-year limit from the time of construction to file an accessibility complaint.

Jim Moench, executive director of the North Dakota Disabilities Advocacy Consortium, is disappointed in the decision, saying it could have long-range implications that dilute the effectiveness of the act.

"If a new building is built and no one with a disability happens to apply to rent there for two years, the building is then 'grandfathered' and never has to become accessible."

Moench points out that many people with disabilities are unlikely to rent a newly-built, and therefore more expensive, apartment - which means the two-year statute of limitations could slip by, unnoticed.

"They would never even really consider looking until probably long after two years is over. At that point, the apartment building or complex would not be accessible, and there would be no remedy."

In Moench's opinion, the North Dakota Supreme Court has put the burden of compliance on the general public rather than building owners. He says the next step would be to take the case to federal courts. The ruling can be viewed online at www.fhdakotas.org.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - ND