HUD Proposes Rule to Protect Victims of Harassment in Housing
HUD recently issued a proposed rule that would formalize standards for harassment cases under federal fair housing law in both private and publicly assisted housing. Although no formal regulation has been in place, HUD and courts have long held that fair housing law prohibits harassment in housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status.
Sexual harassment is the most common form of harassment complaint received by HUD. Low-income women, often racial and ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities, may be particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment in housing, according to HUD.
"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," HUD Secretary Julián Castro said in a statement.
The proposed rule formalizes 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. The proposed rule also clarifies when housing providers and other covered entities or individuals may be held directly or vicariously liable under fair housing law for illegal harassment or other discriminatory housing practices.
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 for public comment. HUD encourages interested persons to submit comments electronically through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov during the 60-day public comment period.
The proposed rule is available here.