Evans v. Udr, Inc.

Decision Date24 March 2009
Docket NumberNo. 7:07-CV-136-FL.,7:07-CV-136-FL.
Citation644 F.Supp.2d 675
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of North Carolina
PartiesRobin M. EVANS and East Coast Solutions, Inc., Plaintiffs, v. UDR, INC., (f/k/a United Dominion Realty Trust, Inc.), UDR of NC, Limited Partnership, Rebecca Lynn, in her official capacity as Property Manager of Forest Hills Apartment Homes, and Rachelle Jacobs, in her official capacity as District Manager, UDR, Inc. and UDR of NC, Limited Partnership, Defendants.

Jack Holtzman, Susan H. Pollitt, Disability Rights of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC, for Plaintiffs.

A. Bartlett White, Hatch Little & Bunn, LLP, Raleigh, NC, Theresa L. Kitay, Marina Del Rey, CA, for Defendants.


(References to Sealed Material Redacted)


This matter is before the court on defendants' motion for summary judgment, (DE # 30), the memorandum and recommendation ("M & R") of United States Magistrate Judge James E. Gates, (DE # 43), plaintiffs' timely objections to the M & R, and defendant's response. (DE ## 47, 52.) In this posture, the issues presented are ripe for decision.

Statement of the Case

Plaintiffs initiated this action by complaint filed August 9, 2007, (DE # 1), seeking declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief based on defendants' denial of plaintiff Robin Evans's ("Evans") application for an apartment and subsequent failure to consider a requested "reasonable accommodation" of Evans's alleged disability, in violation of the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. Defendants timely answered denying any violation of the FHA. (DE # 19.) After discovery, plaintiffs stipulated to dismissal of their claims to injunctive relief in this action as to all defendants. (DE # 26.) Defendants then filed the instant motion for summary judgment, asserting that their decision to deny Evans's application for an apartment was based solely on her criminal record, not on her alleged disabilities.1 After the parties completed briefing on the instant summary judgment motion, the United States Magistrate Judge recommended granting defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs' timely objected to the M & R, and defendants have now responded. In this posture, the issues raised in their motion for summary judgment are ripe for decision.

Statement of the Undisputed Facts

The salient facts in this case are not in dispute for purposes of the instant motion. Plaintiff East Coast Solutions, Inc. ("ECS") is a North Carolina non-profit corporation with its principal place of business in Wilmington, North Carolina. (Compl. ¶ 8.) ECS provides substance abuse treatment, housing and supportive services to alcoholics and drug addicts. (Id.) To this end, ECS operates the SEAISE Program, a highly structured, yearlong intensive substance abuse program for women with young children. (Id. at ¶ 9, 18.) The SEARISE Program is the only substance abuse program in the New Hanover County, North Carolina, area that accepts and provides housing and rehabilitation services to women with one or more children. (Id. at ¶ 9.) As part of the SEARISE Program, ECS has rented a group of apartments in the Forest Hills Apartment Homes complex ("Forest Hills"). (Id. at ¶ 9.) Residence in one of these apartments is a necessary component of the SEARISE Program. (Id.)

Evans is a young mother with diagnosed mental disabilities who is recovering from substance abuse and addiction (collectively her "disabilities").2 (Id. at ¶ 7.) [redacted text] Evan's youngest son was taken from her by the local Department of Social Services in 2007, and one of the prerequisites for Evans to be granted custody of him is her participation in the SEARISE Program. (Compl. ¶ 16.) Evans is an approved applicant to the SEARISE Program who is not a current user of alcohol or illegal drugs. (Id. at ¶ 14.) However, to participate in the Program. Evans needed to qualify as an occupant of one of the Forest Hills apartment units by completing defendants' application form and satisfying defendants' qualification requirements. (Id. at ¶ 23; Pls. Mem. in Opp'n 2, DE # 34.)

Defendant UDR, Inc. is a private corporation organized under Maryland law. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Defendant UDR of North Carolina is a North Carolina limited partnership. (Id. at ¶ 11.) At all times relevant to the instant motion, UDR and UDR of North Carolina (collectively "UDR") jointly owned, operated, and/or managed the Forest Hills apartment complex. (Roger J. Ivey Aff. ¶ 3, DE # 30-13.) Defendant Rebecca Lynn ("Lynn") was employed by UDR as the Property Manager (also known as "Community Director") of Forest Hills at the times relevant to the instant motion. (Compl. ¶ 12; Rebecca Lynn Aff. ¶ 2, DE # 30-14.)3 Defendant Rachelle Jacobs ("Jacobs") was, at all times relevant to the instant motion, employed by UDR as the District Manager in Wilmington, North Carolina. (Compl. ¶ 13.)

Evans was accepted into the SEARISE Program on or about April 16, 2007, at which time she filled out the rental application form for Forest Hills. (Compl. ¶ 29; Evans's Rental Application, Defs.' Ex. 2, DE # 30-4.) Evans truthfully completed the section of the rental application form that asked about her criminal history. (Evans's Rental Application, Defs.' Ex. 2.) Evans's criminal history consists, in relevant part,4 of a 2002 arrest and conviction by way of a guilty plea for misdemeanor simple assault.5 (Compl. ¶ 30; Report on Evans's Crim. Hist. at 3). Pursuant to defendants' application policy,6 Evans's application was submitted to a criminal history screening conducted by a third party vendor. (UDR Statement of Rental Policy; Ivey Aff. ¶ 5.) Because of Evans's 2002 arrest and conviction, the third party vendor reported a recommendation of "deny" for Evans's application. (Lynn Aff. ¶ 4.)

By letter dated May 25, 2007, Jane Albers, Executive Director of ECS, contacted Lynn explaining that Evans's conviction was a result of her disabilities and requesting UDR provide Evans a reasonable accommodation "by being flexible in its application of its `no criminal conviction' policy and allowing Ms. Evans to reside in one of the apartments" rented by ECS. (ECS Letter, DE #30-7.) On July 17, 2007, defendants denied plaintiffs' request for a reasonable accommodation. (Compl. ¶ 34-35.) On behalf of plaintiffs, the North Carolina Justice Center ("NC Justice Center") sent defendants a letter dated July 20, 2007, seeking an explanation for defendants' refusal of a reasonable accommodation and renewing plaintiffs' request for such accommodation. (NC Justice Center Letter, DE # 30-8.) Defendants responded by letter dated August 6, 2007, asserting that plaintiffs' request did not constitute an "accommodation" as the term is used in the FHA because it was Evans's conviction, not her disability, which led to defendants' refusal of her application.7 (Kitay Letter, DE # 30-10.)

On August 9, 2007, plaintiffs commenced the instant action. With benefit of briefing from all parties and the M & R from the magistrate judge, the issues raised by the instant motion for summary judgment are ripe for decision.


Summary judgment is appropriate, under Rule 56(c), "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court construes evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable inferences in the nonmovant's favor, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

A party seeking summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the [record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party must then "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (quoting FED. R.CIV.P. 56(e)).

In addressing a party's objection to an M & R, the district court "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). Upon careful review of the record, "the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." Id.; see Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir.1983).

The FHA was "enacted ... to provide for `fair housing throughout the United States,'" Bryant Woods Inn v. Howard County, 124 F.3d 597, 602 (4th Cir.1997). To accomplish this, the FHA "makes it unlawful, inter alia, to discriminate in the sale or rental of housing or otherwise to make housing unavailable to a buyer or renter because of that buyer's or renter's handicap or the handicap of certain persons associated with the buyer or renter." Id. at 602-03 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)). Discrimination for FHA purposes includes "a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling." 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B).8 A "handicap" is defined in the FHA as (1) a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities, (2) a record of having such an impairment, or (3) being regarded as having such an impairment, but such term does not include current, illegal use of or...

To continue reading

Request your trial
5 cases
  • Sinisgallo v. Town of Islip Hous. Auth.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York
    • May 23, 2012
    ...challenged action.” Boston Hous. Auth. v. Bridgewaters, 452 Mass. 833, 848, 898 N.E.2d 848, 859–60 (Mass.2009); Evans v. UDR, Inc., 644 F.Supp.2d 675, 690 (E.D.N.C.2009) ( “In order for an accommodation to be deemed “necessary,” there must be some causal connection between the proposed acco......
  • Simmons v. T.M. Assocs. Mgmt., Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Virginia
    • February 14, 2018
    ...to a claimant's disability. To support this argument, it relies on a case from the Eastern District of North Carolina, Evans v. UDR Inc. , 644 F.Supp.2d 675 (2009), holding that the FHA does not require accommodations for disability-induced criminal actions. The Court finds Evans unpersuasi......
  • Smith v. Gilchrist
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • May 14, 2014
    ...ways in which a court may direct that judgment be handled following a conviction by verdict or guilty plea.” Evans v. UDR, Inc., 644 F.Supp.2d 675, 687 n. 3 (E.D.N.C.2009). “The term refers specifically to deferral of court action on the state's request for entry of judgment, the final orde......
  • Heinert v. Wichita Falls Hous. Auth., 07–13–00220–CV.
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • July 29, 2014
    ...that tenant must show that her behavior forming the basis of the eviction was attributable to her disability); Evans v. UDR, Inc., 644 F.Supp.2d 675, 690 (E.D.N.C.2009) (“In order for an accommodation to be deemed ‘necessary,’ there must be some causal connection between the proposed accomm......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT