HUD Announces New Protections for Harassment Victims and Domestic Violence Survivors
HUD recently announced that it’s publishing a final rule formalizing legal standards under the Fair Housing Act for sexual and other forms of harassment in housing. In addition, HUD is issuing Fair Housing Act guidance on local “nuisance ordinances” that may lead to housing discrimination against survivors of domestic violence and other persons in need of emergency services.
HUD is issuing its Nuisance Guidance as the country marks the 22nd anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Through the VAWA 2013 reauthorization, protections have been expanded to nearly all HUD programs. Previously, only residents of public housing and Section 8 tenant-based and project-based programs were covered.
HUD's final Harassment Rule is titled “Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices under the Fair Housing Act.” HUD and courts have long held that harassment in housing or housing-related transactions on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status is prohibited under the Fair Housing Act. The final rule specifies how HUD will evaluate claims of "hostile environment" and "quid pro quo" harassment in both private and publicly assisted housing.
HUD's “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 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 the Fair Housing Act.
These local ordinances may be used to evict domestic violence survivors and others who seek police or emergency assistance. HUD's final rule on harassment in housing includes:
- Formal uniform standards for evaluating claims of hostile environment and quid pro quo harassment in the housing context. 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. 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 of the right to use and enjoy the housing.
- Clarification as to when housing providers and other covered entities or individuals may be held directly or vicariously liable under the Fair Housing Act for illegal harassment or other discriminatory housing practices.
The Nuisance Ordinance 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, thereby discouraging victims from reporting domestic abuse or other crimes and obtaining the emergency police and medical assistance they need.