The Karlin Law Firm LLP - Business Law Attorney

Providing quality legal services to statewide and national clients in ADA defense, Personal Injury, business and real estate for more than 35 years

Providing quality legal services to statewide and national clients in ADA defense, Personal Injury, business and real estate for more than 35 years

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Portell Law Group – ADA and Fair Housing Website Claims

News Update. ADA and Federal Fair Housing Website Violations being claimed by the Portell Law Group, with offices in Florida and Washington D.C., targeting business with websites, and Real Estate Companies and Real Estate Brokers in particular.  Claims by Portell are being made for Access4All, Inc, and focus on alleged violations of Federal Fair Housing and sometimes Florida Fair Housing laws with an attempt to apply such laws to Websites of businesses, including real estate brokers, mortgage brokers and other businesses.

The Karlin Law Firm defends these claims and also works with businesses, website owners, web developers and webmaster to bring websites into compliance in a way that will avoid ADA and Fair Housing violations claims.  Web developers will often focus on WCAG 2.0 or WCAG 2.1, but much more needs to be addressed, and a knowledge and experience in the current state of the law is critical to protect businesses, which needs to be explained to the web developer working on a website.

The Karlin Law Firm, has resolved over 1,400 ADA cases, half of which are now website claims and cases.  We both defend and we provide the needed guidance in website compliance.

DEMAND LETTER BY PORTELL LAW GROUP RE ADA AND FAIR HOUSING VIOLATIONS

Here’s an example of a typical letter sent by the Portell Law Group:

PORTELL LAW GROUP

712 H Street Northeast, Unit #5050 – Washington, DC 20002

Attn: ABC Real Estate   c/o General Counsel or Owner

12345 Main Street, Your City, Fl or other State

Dear Counsel,

This letter along with relevant enclosures constitutes our formal demand for violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1988, Title VIII, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. and the Florida Fair Housing Act, Fla. Stat. §§ 760.20-760.60 [or other state such as California, New York, Pennsylvania etc, (hereinafter “FFHA” or “FHA”) to be rectified.

Our client, Access4All, Inc. (hereinafter the “Client”), is a not-for-profit organization whose membership consists, in part, of persons with disabilities who live throughout the nation, and others who are committed to, inter alia, equal access, equal opportunity, and equal rights for protected classes.

While attempting to access Respondent’s real estate listing at www.Yourwebiste.com (hereinafter “website”) using American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) approved screen-reading software, our client, encountered several access barriers which denied full and equal access to information and/or services related to real estate services offered and made available to the public on the referred website.

The substantial errors and challenges encountered on the website are described as follows:

  1. Homepage page – Logo Missing Linked Alternative Text on the top of the homepage there is the logo of the company. When the indicator (Mouse) accesses the area where there is the logo the screen reader reads “YourCompany”. However, the screen reader is unable to describe that the logo has a linked text. The screen reader must be able to describe the link in order for the user to properly use and acknowledge it.
  2. Homepage Page – Empty Link error – On the top of the homepage there is some text which redirects the user to another part of the website when clicked these are “XYZ link”,

 

“ABC link”, “WeLookForViolationslink” , etc. However, these icons do not have their corresponding link text. When the indicator (mouse) accesses the area where the text is the screen reader only reads the text. Therefore, the screen reader does not read the linked text and the user does not know that if they click on these texts the website will redirect them to another page.

  1. Homepage Page – Image Missing Alternative Text. At the start of the homepage there is an image of a XYZ. When the indicator (Mouse) accesses the area where there is this image the screen reader remains silent. As such is unable to describe what is depicted on the panel. As such, the user is unable to identify or acknowledge the image.
  2. Homepage page – Missing Form Label at the “ABC link or MLS” area on the homepage. When the indicator (mouse) accesses the area where the text box menu is located, the screen reader is silent. As such the user must be able to access the exact point of the text box menu in order to utilize the screen reader and could be confused while entering the data.

It is important to note and remember that the barriers encountered resulted in a discriminatory impact on those who are visually impaired, in violation of the FHA and FFHA. The discrimination is a direct result of your negligence as the law presumes the party who made such a website acted without due care and violated the FHA and FFHA by publishing information on its website which fails to provide reasonable accommodations for blind and visually impaired persons.

The Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C.S. § 3604(c), specifically states:

“…it shall be unlawful:

(c) To make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination”.

Additionally, the FHA 42 U.S.C. § 3606, states:

“It shall be unlawful to deny any person access to or membership or participation in any multiple-listing service, real estate brokers’ organization or other service, organization, or facility relating to the business of selling or renting dwellings, or to discriminate against him in the terms or conditions of such access, membership, or participation, on account of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.

[Comment: For Florida Claims the paragraph is included, for other states there may or may not be a reference to that other state’s statutes:]

Lastly, the

Florida Fair Housing Act, FL Stat. §§ 760.23(3)

states:

It is unlawful to make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published, any notice, statement, or advertisement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, handicap, familial status, or religion or an intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination”.

The Respondent’s violation of the FHA and FFHA presents unique challenges to members of the blind and visually disabled community in that the violations deprive those within that community of important social, professional and economic benefits that arise from the enjoyment of non-discriminatory housing practices.

As you may know, Congress intended FHA regulations to be enforced by private rights of action in addition to any administrative enforcement by a governmental body. To that end, our client chose to advocate for the enforcement of its members’ rights through the hiring of this firm.

At this time, on behalf of our client we hereby demand that the Respondent undertake the actions necessary to make its website readily accessible to and usable by blind and visually impaired individuals so as to permit our client and those others similarly situated to be able to navigate and comprehend the website using assistive technologies such as screen-reading software.

As a direct and proximate result of Respondent’s non-compliance with FHA regulations our client necessarily incurred damages, attorney’s fees and costs related to its compliance and enforcement efforts, this include but are not limited to: research into the Respondent’s discriminatory housing practices, its diversion of organizational resources and work performed on behalf of our client by this firm.

Unless the Respondent agrees to promptly resolve this matter by taking affirmative actions to ensure that its website is fully accessible to, and independently usable by, blind and visually impaired persons within ten (10) business days of this correspondence, we reserve the right to file the attached complaint against Respondent on behalf of our client.

Should Respondent elect to resolve this matter without litigation, Respondent will receive the following:

  1. A conditional release from our client provided the Respondent agrees to remedy the issues discovered on the website within thirty (30) days of resolution;
  2. A conditional release from our firm in exchange for reasonable attorney fees and costs, conditioned on compliance within thirty (30) days of resolution; and
  3. A WCAG 2.1. & FHA Website Compliance Assessment of the Respondent’s website.

712 H Street Northeast, Unit #5050 – Washington, DC 20002

Whether Respondent achieves compliance through pre-suit resolution and remediation or protracted litigation rests solely within the Respondent’s discretion. To that end, in the unfortunate circumstance that the Respondent fails to respond to this demand by Deadline Date Here, 2020, we reserve the right to seek judicial enforcement through the attached private cause of action in addition to any administrative remedies that maybe available through the Department of Justice and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development without further notice.

Very truly yours,

/s/ Jennifer Espinet-Portell Jennifer Espinet-Portell, Esq. Counsel for Plaintiff Telephone: 202-754-8155 Florida Bar No: 97890

712 H Street Northeast, Unit #5050 – Washington, DC 20002

Information about Jennifer Espinet – Portell found on the Florida Bar website includes the following:

Jennifer Espinet-Portell

JP Law Firm, Inc. and PORTELL LAW GROUP
13301 SW 132nd Ave Unit 108
Miami, FL 33186-6189

Office: 305-359-3812

[email protected]
http://jplawfirm.org

https://www.floridabar.org/mybarprofile/97890