HUD Issues Fact Sheet on Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment

HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) recently released a fact sheet, “Preventing and Addressing Harassment in Housing for Property Owners and Managers.” The document primarily focuses on 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. 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.

The fact sheet can be accessed here.

For steps you can take to prevent or deal with sexual harassment at your site, see “Follow Five Rules to Reduce the Risk of Sexual Harassment Claims,” available to subscribers here.