HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) released a fact sheet, “Preventing and Addressing Harassment in Housing for Property Owners and Managers.” The document primarily addresses sexual harassment, but also includes information on harassment based on other characteristics protected by the Fair Housing Act. The fact sheet emphasizes that sexual harassment in housing is illegal, as is harassment based on race, color, national origin, familial status, disability, or religion. All property owners and managers are responsible for ensuring that their housing is free from discriminatory harassment of any type. Property management staff, agents, and owners can all be liable for harassment, as can tenants who harass other tenants.
The fact sheet states that sexual harassment is illegal when an owner or property management employee or agent:
- Makes obtaining, maintaining, using, or enjoying housing (or housing-related services) contingent upon submitting to unwelcome demands for sex, sexual favors, or any other type of sexual conduct.
- Subjects a resident or applicant to unwelcome sexual conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it interferes with that person’s right to obtain, maintain, use, or enjoy housing (or housing-related services).
Owners and management companies are liable for sexual and other types of harassment in their housing if:
- The harassment is committed by any employee or agent (even if supervisors do not know about it).
- The owner or management company fails to take action(s) within their power to stop the harassment of a tenant or applicant by an employee, agent, or another tenant, if they knew or should have known about it.
The fact sheet offers examples of each of these situations and provides suggestions for property owners and managers to prevent and address harassment. These include:
- Establishing and enforcing anti-harassment policies to stop inappropriate or offensive conduct early before it becomes a Fair Housing Act violation.
- Providing multiple ways for tenants to make complaints safely and easily, or otherwise report problems.
- Speaking with tenants to find out whether harassment is occurring and to inform them about their fair housing rights and how to report harassment.
HUD’s Equal Access Rule prohibits property owners with Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) contracts from making housing unavailable because of an applicant’s or resident’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. The final Equal Access Rule was published in the Federal Register on February 3, 2012.
The fact sheet “Preventing and Addressing Harassment in Housing for Property Owners and Managers” is at: https://bit.ly/3f35A0a
HUD training materials on “Preventing Sexual and Other Discriminatory Harassment in Housing” can be found at: https://bit.ly/2z3r2S9
To file a Fair Housing Act complaint, residents should go to: https://bit.ly/3d9VwRx or phone at (800) 669-9777, Federal Relay Service/TTY at (800) 877-8339.
To file an Equal Access Rule complaint, residents should contact their local HUD office. Clicking on the web address link on the fact sheet does not work. Going directly to the main HUD website, however, and selecting the “Contact Us” option at the top of the webpage has a link to HUD’s Local Office Directory: https://bit.ly/2yg7qdy