COACH's Pop Quiz!

Q: A resident reports that his upstairs neighbor has been harassing him because of his race. If you ignore his complaint, your community could be sued for harassment under fair housing law. True or false?

A: True. Under new regulations proposed by HUD, community owners could face liability for discrimination or harassment by third parties, such as other residents, if they knew or should have known about the misconduct and failed to fulfill a duty to take prompt action to correct and end it.

Even without a formal regulation in place, courts have been willing to consider fair housing claims against owners for tenant-on-tenant harassment based on allegations that the community knew or should have known about the harassment but didn’t do enough to stop it.

Example: In June 2015, a court refused to dismiss claims of race discrimination and harassment filed by a condominium resident against the homeowners association and its management company. Among other things, the resident claimed that his upstairs neighbor subjected him to hostile behavior because of his race by yelling racial slurs and threats while repeatedly stomping on his floor. He claimed that he called the police and the community’s security guard, but that community managers refused to help him resolve the situation. Denying the defendants’ request to dismiss the claim, the court ruled that he could pursue his hostile environment claim based on race based on allegations that his upstairs neighbor engaged in racially discriminatory conduct toward him and the defendants knew about the conduct, but failed to assist him or otherwise take remedial action [Hicks v. Makaha Valley Plantation Homeowners Association, Hawaii, June 2015].

For more on HUD’s new proposed rules on harassment and liability for discriminatory practices, see the Coach’s January 2016 lesson available to subscribers here