Rule would formalize standards for bringing harassment claims under the Fair Housing Act
WASHINGTON – October 22, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it is issuing a proposed rule that would formalize standards for victims of harassment in housing to bring claims under the Fair Housing Act. The proposed rule, “Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices under the Fair Housing Act,” was published in the Federal Register today for public comment.
While no formal regulation has been in place, HUD and courts have long held that harassment in housing or housing-related transactions on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status is prohibited under the Fair Housing Act. The proposed rule specifies how claims of “hostile environment” and “quid pro quo” harassment would be evaluated in both private and publicly assisted housing.
“A home should be a refuge where every woman and man deserves to live without the threat of violence or harassment. The rule HUD is proposing is designed to better protect victims of harassment by offering greater clarity for how to handle a claim against an abuser,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro.
Sexual harassment is the most common form of harassment complaint received by HUD. Harassment in housing threatens a resident’s sense of safety and privacy in their own home, and there can be little opportunity to escape such harassment unless the individual or family moves. In HUD’s experience enforcing the Fair Housing Act, low-income women, often racial and ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities, may be particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment in housing.
The Department continues to aggressively pursue claims of harassment in housing. For example, HUD recently filed a charge of discrimination against a Wisconsin landlord who failed to take action to stop tenants from harassing other tenants, a mother and daughter with disabilities. HUD also charged a South Dakota property manager with sexually harassing a female tenant with two children. In addition, the Department of Justice recently agreed on a consent decree resolving a case investigated and charged by HUD involving sexual harassment by employees of a West Virginia property management firm.
HUD’s proposed rule will:
- Formalize uniform standards for evaluating claims of hostile environment and quid pro quo harassment in the housing context:
- Hostile Environment Harassment involves subjecting a person to unwelcome conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive such that it interferes with or deprives the person the right to use and enjoy the housing.
- Quid Pro Quo Harassment involves subjecting a person to an unwelcome request or demand and making submission to the request or demand a condition related to the person’s housing.
- Clarify when housing providers and other covered entities or individuals may be held directly or vicariously liable under the Fair Housing Act for illegal harassment or other discriminatory housing practices.
HUD has submitted its proposed rule for publication in the Federal Register. The general public will have sixty (60) days from the date of publication to submit comments on the proposed rule. HUD encourages interested persons to submit comments electronically through the Federal eRulemaking Portal atwww.regulations.gov during the public comment period. The complete proposed rule can be viewed here.
Anyone who believes she or he has experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple or Android devices.