October 2021 Coach's Quiz
Now that we’ve explained the eight rules to follow to avoid liability for engaging in retaliation under the FHA, let’s see how well you learned the material. Take the Coach’s Quiz below to see if you can apply the rules to real-life situations. Each question has one and only one correct answer. The correct answers (with explanations) follow the quiz. Good luck!
Your community rules allow you to evict any tenant who unreasonably hasn’t paid rent for more than three consecutive months. You’ve consistently enforced this policy without exception for the past 10 years. Just as you’re making preparations to evict a mobility-impaired tenant who hasn’t paid rent for three consecutive months, he comes to you to request a designated handicap parking spot. Can you evict him?
a. No, because it would be retaliation for requesting a reasonable accommodation
b. Yes, if he doesn’t have a reasonable excuse for not paying the rent
c. Yes, if you can prove that he doesn’t really need the accommodation
A tenant comes to you in tears and says that a maintenance worker who’s been sexually harassing her for months just entered her apartment and exposed his genitals. “I’m going to call a lawyer,” she exclaims. You feel terrible for the tenant and want to do everything you can to help her. But you also don’t want her to make a scene or drag the lawyers in. So, you tell her not to tell anybody about the incident and assure her that you’ll call the police and speak directly to the worker’s employer. Did you break the law?
a. Yes, because you interfered with the tenant’s right to file a fair housing complaint
b. No, because you acted in the tenant’s best interests
c. No, because it’s far from clear whether the tenant would have a valid fair housing case against you
COACH’S ANSWERS & EXPLANATIONS
Correct answer: b
Reason: Rules #4, #5 and #6 apply here:
Rule #4: Differentiate Between Retaliation and Legitimate Enforcement
Rule #5: Document Legitimate Reasons for Taking Adverse Actions
Rule #6: Enforce Your Rules and Rental Criteria Consistently
Remember that you’re allowed to enforce your rules against tenants after they exercise a fair housing right, as long as it’s for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory purpose and you’ve consistently enforced those rules in the past. Requiring tenants to pay rent is clearly a legitimate and nondiscriminatory purpose; and the community in this case has consistently, for over 10 years, evicted others for violating the policy. As a result, the eviction is justifiable and not a pretext for retaliating against the tenant for requesting an accommodation. So, b. is the right answer.
Wrong answers explained:
a. The reason a. is wrong is that tenants don’t become untouchable just because they request an accommodation, file a discrimination complaint, or exercise another fair housing right. They still have to obey the community’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory, and consistently enforced rules.
c. This choice is wrong because exercising a fair housing right triggers the ban on retaliation regardless of whether the exercise was right, wrong, or indifferent, as long as it was undertaken in good faith. In this case, the request for an accommodation precludes retaliatory action even if the requested accommodation isn’t actually reasonable. Similarly, evicting a tenant for filing a fair housing complaint is retaliatory even if the complaint is totally baseless and false.
Correct answer: a
Reason: Rule #2 applies here:
Rule #2: Don’t Try to Keep Tenants from Exercising Their Fair Housing Rights
The FHA bans not just retaliation but acts to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with the exercise of a fair housing right. And that’s just what the landlord did when he told the tenant not to tell anybody about the incident. While it might have been well intentioned, the instruction to keep silent interferes with the tenant’s right to file an FHA sexual harassment complaint. So, a. is the right answer.
Wrong answers explained:
b. It’s debatable whether the landlord was acting in the tenant’s best interest in telling her not to say anything about just having been sexually assaulted. More significantly, b. is wrong because trying to stop a tenant from filing a fair housing complaint is illegal regardless of the motive for doing so.
c. This choice is wrong because the legal validity of the underlying fair housing complaint is in no way relevant to the ban on interfering with a tenant’s right to file it. Again, it’s the mere action of interference that determines liability.
See The Lesson For This Quiz
|Fair Housing Retaliation Liability Risks & How to Avoid Them|