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HUD issues Rule Prohibiting a Hostile Environment, Harrassment and Quid-Pro-Quo in Housing

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate in housing based on the following “Protected Classes”:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National Origin,
  • Sex
  • Family Status
  • Disability or Handicap

HUD announced a final rule that took effect October 14, 2016 in which it is a violation of the Fair Housing Act to provide less service, different service, or refusing or discouraging others to rent or sell housing in connection to a person’s response to harassment because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, family status, or handicap/disability.  This rule applies to developers, landlords, real estate agents, loan officers, appraisers, etc.

A violation includes an owner’s agent, property manager, real estate agent and/or employee, acted in a way that created a hostile environment or engaged in harassment or quid pro quo (this-for-that) in offering housing or providing housing or any level of service related to housing.  The rule defines this as creating, facilitating in the creation of, or failure to act action to remove harassment or a hostile environment.

A violation includes “Failing to take prompt action to correct and end a discriminatory housing practice by a third-party, where the person knew or should have known of the discriminatory conduct and had the power to correct it. The power to take prompt action to correct and end a discriminatory housing practice by a third-party depends upon the extent of the person’s control or any other legal responsibility the person may have with respect to the conduct of such third-party.”

An example of Quid Pro Quo (this-for-that) is when certain Baltimore City’s public housing employees performed maintenance for public housing tenants only in exchange for sexual favors.   Click here to see a newspaper article reporting this incident  Could such a situation occur with non-public housing providers?

This rule seems to suggest that a landlord needs to be concerned about their vendors’ behavior.  It is unclear to the extent a landlord would be responsible for the actions of its tenants.  Could a landlord could be held liable if he knew, or should have known, that one tenant was harassing another, creating a hostile environment against another tenant, or if one tenant made unwanted sexual advances to another tenant?

Click Here to Read the Entire Rule