apartment owners and operators looking to new congress to outlaw controversial "drive-by" litigation
Appraising the changed composition of Congress in the wake of Democrat mid-term victories, the National Apartment Association is hoping that several initiatives important to apartment complex owners and operators will be tackled.
But probably none is as controversial as a push to prohibit what are known as “drive-by” lawsuits brought against apartment owners under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Those lawsuits, notes Greg Brown, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Apartment Association, have seen businesses being sued for minor or technical violations of the law.
Those lawsuits are often filed by plaintiffs who have allegedly done nothing more than “drive by” a given business, document the address, and charge that the business is in some way violating Title III.
According to various sources more than 5,000 such lawsuits are filed annually, with businesses paying in excess of $50 million in lawyer’s fees.
In an article for the Arlington-based NAA entitled “What Does This Mean: Looking Ahead to the 116th Congress,” Brown suggested that apartment owners and operators would actually like to see “drive-by” legislation enacted before the current Congress goes out of business.
“The clock is running out on two of our current legislative priorities, meaning that the objective we set for ourselves is likely not to be met in full,” writes Brown. “This includes comprehensive reform of the National Flood Insurance Program and mitigating so-called ‘drive-by’ lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
Should the exiting Congress fail to act, Brown predicts of the two issues: “We will bring these back in 2019.”
The NAA will also be increasingly pushing for tax incentives for middle income affordable housing development, as well as working with Congress to find, as Brown puts it, “improvements in efficiency and effectiveness of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.”
The NAA is pushing for a greater participation on the part of private apartment owners and operators to be a part of the Section 8 program. “We will also work with lawmakers on incentivizing local governments to bring down barriers to development and increase the supply of rental housing,” writes Brown.
Besides apartment owners and operators, the NAA, with more than 75,000 members, represents management executives, property managers, leasing consultants, investors, developers and builders, among other players in the national apartment industry.
By Garry Boulard