For Immediate Release
Thursday October 1, 2015
Allan L. Rappuhn, Florence, Alabama, today commented on the United States Department of Justice’s lawsuit against him, his apartment development, and ownership businesses alleging they failed to design and construct apartments in compliance with applicable disability and accessibility requirements. “Gateway Construction and Gateway Development have been in business for more than 25 years and have developed over 3500 high quality apartment units throughout the southeast, most of which are affordable units with monthly rent of less than $500. Gateway prides itself on running a careful, diligent business in a highly regulated industry. Almost every week we meet the requests of tenants for reasonable accommodation for their disabilities. That is part of who we are.
“For reasons unknown to us and which the Department of Justice will not disclose, DOJ has been reviewing our properties since the spring of 2014. Gateway has fully and completely cooperated with DOJ in this review. They have sent teams of architects, consultants and lawyers to review 17 of our properties. All of our apartments which are subject to accessibility requirements were intended to be designed to meet those. We require that of our architects and builders. We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to do so in the face of standards that in many cases are vague and over which even experts disagree. The projects are inspected by multiple parties, including state agencies and local building inspectors, for compliance. Prior to the commencement of this exacting DOJ review, we were not aware of any circumstances of non-compliance with the literally thousands of accessibility requirements applicable to each apartment complex.
“This is not a case of failing to have any handicap parking spaces, curb ramps, grab bars, lever handles, accessible routes or similar key designs and concepts. The kinds of things they have found are, for example:
- A sidewalk, rather than having a maximum 5% slope, has a 6% or 7% slope (in an 8 foot run of sidewalk, 1% is 1 inch).
- A threshold at a doorway is ¼ to ½ inch too high.
- In a few units, a light switch, rather than having a maximum height of 48 inches, has been set at 49 to 50 inches. Similarly, toilets instead of being set 18 inches from a wall may in some cases only be 16 inches.
“Many small deviations from a code would normally be considered building construction tolerances. More than half of the properties involved were constructed more than 10 years ago, and some as many as 25 years ago, and the alleged sloping problems at these properties have been caused by various factors that occur over time, such as rain and traffic.
“The DOJ has not alleged any particular person with a disability has been denied accessible housing. They confirmed to us that they have not received any complaints from persons with disabilities, but they will not reveal why they have targeted us for this investigation and lawsuit. We are not aware of any persons with disabilities who have been unable to live in our apartments or unreasonably inconvenienced as a result of lack of accessibility. We have nonetheless tried to work with DOJ in good faith to resolve these minor deviations from the code and DOJ assured us they would do the same.
“However, DOJ, contrary to everything they have said up until this point, filed the complaint yesterday in light of on-going negotiations, our complete cooperation, and our stated intent and efforts to satisfactorily address any substantiated findings. We were taken completely by surprise when they filed the complaint. In fact, we found out about it when the media started calling us.
“We are very proud of our efforts to provide accessible housing and will continue to uphold that very high standard in our work. Gateway is a strong, resilient company. We are committed to doing right for our tenants, the housing finance authorities that foster affordable housing, our lenders, our investors and our employees. We fully expect to resolve this matter with DOJ.
Further inquiries regarding this matter may be directed to Amy F. Montgomery, President of Gateway Construction Corporation, at 256-760-9657.