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Apartments in Miami Gardens, Opa-locka sued

Owner accused of discriminating against the disabled

Erick Johnson | 6/12/2014, 9 a.m.
They spent millions of dollars on clubhouses, swimming pools and upgrades to apartment units and parking lots. But when asked ...
HOPE and six disabled residents filed a discrimination lawsuit against Charter Realty, which manages 183rd and 187th Street Apartments (above) and two other apartments in Miami Gardens and Opa-locka. Photo by Erick Johnson

They spent millions of dollars on clubhouses, swimming pools and upgrades to apartment units and parking lots. But when asked to install safety grab bars in Pamela Carter’s bathroom, managers at her Opa-locka apartment allegedly stalled on the request before Carter finally suffered a fall that left her hospitalized for two weeks with serious injuries.

Vanessa Cano was placed on the second floor of her Miami Gardens apartment despite having Lupus, a disease that causes fatigue while the immune systems attacks vital organs and tissues. When Cano wanted a temporary space she was forced to wait for weeks.

But when the Housing Opportunities for Project Excellence (HOPE) got involved after numerous complaints, they were allegedly misled and rebuffed by managers at the apartments.

Those are fresh details of a big discrimination lawsuit filed by six residents and HOPE, who allege that Charter Realty Group, a firm that manages three apartment complexes in Miami Gardens and Opa-locka, engaged in unfair housing practices and discriminated against residents at three sites based on disability, sex and familial status. The plaintiffs alleged the actions violated the Fair Housing Act under the Civil Rights of 1964.

The suit, which was filed last Friday in the United States Southern District of Florida, also lists property manager Paulette Gopaul and the owner of the apartments, Miami Property Group as the other defendants. In addition to punitive and compensatory damages, the suit is also seeking coverage for court costs and attorney fees. The suit seeks an injunction to stop the alleged discriminatory practices.

The plaintiffs are being represented by the Disability Independence Group, a non-profit legal group founded and headed by attorney Matthew Dietz.

The suit is the latest legal complaint by HOPE, which filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Elite Apartments in Miami last month after conducting audit checks where Blacks were allegedly treated differently and denied tours to view apartments just hours before Latino testers were offered to rent the units.

GUARDED APARTMENTS

In the latest suit, the apartments being sued include two in Miami Gardens, located at 18451 NW 37 Ave and 18665 NW 37th Ave. Known as the 183rd and 187th Street apartments, the apartments are on a sprawling complex that is surround by a six-foot gate. Residents must pass through a guard gate to enter the complex. The two apartments have a total of 331 units, of which 99 percent are full, according to the lawsuit.

Miami Property Group’s other property is located in Opa-locka at 13875 NW 22nd Ave. Built in 1970, the apartments have 175 units and a pool, resembling the Miami Gardens complex. The Opa-locka apartments also have a pool and a six-foot gate surrounding the property. A combined total of 1148 tenants live in the apartments in Miami Gardens and Opa-locka, according to the lawsuit.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development, a large majority of the residents are poor, Black and live on Section 8 assistance. About 10 percent of the residents have one or more disabilities, according to the lawsuit.