January 2015 Coach's Quiz
We have given you six rules to help you defend yourself against retaliation claims. Now let’s look at how the rules might apply in the real world. Take the COACH’s Quiz to see what you have learned.
INSTRUCTIONS: Each of the following questions has only one correct answer. On a separate piece of paper, write down the number of each question, followed by the answer you think is correct—for example, 1) b, 2) a, and so on.
And this month, there’s an extra assignment: Judge for Yourself, a summary of an actual court case. Test yourself on whether you think the community should be held liable, and then check the summary of the court’s ruling to see how much you have learned.
The correct answers (with explanations) follow the quiz. Good luck!
Three years ago, a resident filed a fair housing complaint against your community, but it was later dismissed. Over the past six months, she’s fallen behind on her rent. Despite making partial payments, she still owes three months’ rent. Even though she hasn’t paid her rent again this month, you can’t evict her because of her previous fair housing complaint. True or false?
A resident has reported that the property manager has been making lewd comments and unwanted sexual advances. Last week, she called police when they got into a fight after she said he groped her. The property manager, who has worked for you for many years, says she’s a troublemaker and that you shouldn’t renew her lease at the end of next month. If you decide against renewing her lease, you could face a fair housing claim. True or false?
JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
A resident moved into your community in 2010. She lived on the first floor and had a handicapped parking space in front of her unit. Her lease, which was renewed twice, required her to have “due regard for the comfort, convenience, and pleasure of other residents.”
Two years later, her behavior allegedly became erratic. Residents complained that she drove around the complex and honked at them, and set off her “panic button” when they walked by her van. They also said that she wrote down their license plate numbers, took pictures of them and their children, and yelled at them and called them names.
You served her with a 30-day notice to quit for violating the lease, but the resident’s erratic behavior allegedly continued. Among other things, residents complained that she was still taking pictures of them and their children. She also accused you of inappropriate sexual behavior and made a gun gesture toward you.
About a week later, the resident and the representative of a power wheelchair provider approached you about a threshold ramp for her front door. You asked her to submit a modification request along with specifications for the ramp. Instead of responding, the resident allegedly tacked a letter on her door that she wouldn’t talk to anyone and had a lawyer working for her.
A few days later, you served a notice to end the tenancy effective two weeks later. Meanwhile, the resident allegedly had two altercations with other residents—but she remained in the unit past the deadline. Soon after, a judge ordered her eviction for interfering with the residents’ use and enjoyment of the premises.
A year later, the resident sued the community for discrimination by failing to grant her modification request, and for retaliation by evicting her.
What did the court decide?
COACH’S ANSWERS & EXPLANATIONS
Correct answer: b
Reason: Rule #3 applies here:
Rule #3: Be Prepared for Retaliation Claims When Dealing with Troublesome Tenants
It’s unlawful to retaliate against a resident because she filed a fair housing complaint against you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take action against her if she’s in serious violation of the lease. You can initiate eviction proceedings, but you should be prepared for a potential retaliation claim. Since it’s been years since she filed the discrimination complaint, you should be able to fend off a retaliation claim as long as you can prove that you have a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for evicting her—nonpayment of rent—and that you didn’t single her out for discriminatory reasons.
Correct answer: a
Reason: Rules #1 & #6 apply:
Rule #1: Don’t Retaliate Against Anyone for Filing Fair Housing Complaint
Rule #6: Don’t Ignore Residents Who Complain About Harassment
The resident could file fair housing claims for sexual harassment—a form of discrimination based on sex—and retaliation, for not renewing her lease because of her complaint to the police. You could face liability for retaliation, even if the discrimination complaint is ultimately dismissed.
That’s what happened in a similar case in New York, when a court ruled against the resident on the sexual harassment claim, but refused to dismiss the retaliation claim. The complaint alleged that the resident engaged in protected activity by filing a police complaint against the building superintendent for conduct that she considered to be sexual harassment. The landlord argued that the incident was merely the “straw that broke the camel’s back” in a contentious relationship between the resident and the super. However, the landlord’s letter specifically referred to the incident and didn’t mention any other reason for the nonrenewal [Ponce v. 480 East 21st Street, LLC, August 2013].
ANSWER: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
In July 2014, a court dismissed a fair housing case involving a Kansas community accused of discrimination and retaliation for evicting a resident because of her request for a reasonable modification. The court ruled that the community wasn’t liable for discrimination because the resident failed to prove the community denied her modification request.
The court also rejected her retaliation claim. Although she was evicted shortly after she requested the modification, the community had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason to evict her for continuously interfering with other residents. There was no evidence that the real reason for the eviction was her modification request—in fact, the notice to vacate was delivered to her 10 days before she requested the modification [Haycraft v. Fidelity Management Corp., July 2014].
See The Lesson For This Quiz
|How to Defend Your Community Against Retaliation Claims|