New Protections for Victims of Harassment and Domestic Violence

HUD recently added new regulations on fair housing claims for harassment based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability. The new regulations also clarify when housing providers and others may be held directly or vicariously liable for illegal harassment or other discriminatory housing practices.

The new regulations cover “quid pro quo” harassment and hostile environment harassment in both private and publicly assisted housing. Quid pro quo harassment means 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. Hostile environment harassment means subjecting a person to unwelcome conduct that’s so severe or pervasive that it interferes with the person’s right to use and enjoy the housing.

HUD also released a new guidance on local “nuisance ordinances” that may lead to housing discrimination against survivors of domestic violence and other people in need of emergency services. The guidelines are intended to inform state and local governments, as well as private and public housing providers, as to how HUD will assess nuisance or crime-free housing ordinances, policies, or practices alleged to be discriminatory under federal fair housing law.

The guidance addresses ordinances that penalize residents for a small number of 911 calls to police, even when a person is in need of protection from domestic violence or another crime. Nuisance ordinances often require or allow landlords to evict residents in such circumstances, which discourages victims from reporting domestic abuse or other crimes and obtaining the emergency police and medical assistance they need.

"On the 22nd anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, HUD makes it clear that no one should have to choose between calling 9-1-1 and being evicted," HUD Secretary Julián Castro said in a statement. "A home should be a sanctuary where everyone can live without the threat of violence or harassment. The actions we take today will work together to protect the housing rights of victims of harassment and survivors of domestic violence."

The new harassment rule, “Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices under the Fair Housing Act,” is available here, and the new nuisance ordinance guidance, “Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Enforcement of Local Nuisance and Crime-Free Housing Ordinances Against Victims of Domestic Violence, Other Crime Victims, and Others Who Require Police or Emergency Services,” is available here.