Housing Providers on the Hook for Tenant-on-Tenant Harassment

By Nick Adjami
November 17, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted many cities and states to implement stay at home orders, meant to protect residents and slow the spread of the virus. By April 7th, 42 states, the District of Columbia, and multiple cities across the nation had enacted shelter in place or stay at home orders or advisories. Over seven months later, many Americans continue to work remotely and spend more time at home than usual. Unfortunately, this increase in at-home time creates increased opportunity for tenant harassment. In fact, fair housing organizations have documented a surge in reports of landlords soliciting sex from tenants who are unable to pay rent. Other types of harassment may be on the rise as well.

Under the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to harass a resident based on a protected class, such as race, religion, or sex. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), one of the federal agencies that enforces the Fair Housing Act, released its Final Rule on Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices Under the Fair Housing Act. The rule outlines two major types of harassment: quid pro quo and hostile environment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a housing provider requires an individual to submit to an unwelcome request in order to obtain or maintain their housing. Hostile environment harassment occurs when a housing provider subjects a person to severe or pervasive unwelcome conduct that interferes with the person’s access to or enjoyment of housing.

These fair housing protections extend to neighbor-on-neighbor harassment. The 2016 HUD rule on harassment states that “a housing provider (including a homeowner’s association) or property manager is liable under the Act for negligently failing to take corrective action against a third-party harasser when the provider or manager knew or should have known of the harassment and had the power to end it.”

Housing providers must be vigilant and responsive to protect their tenants’ right to safe housing, especially as we all spend more time at home. It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s the law.

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If you believe you may have experienced discrimination in housing, you can contact the Equal Rights Center. To report your experience, please call 202-234-3062 or email info@equalrightscenter.org.

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