The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) recently adopted regulations for evaluating claims of harassment in housing and housing related transactions because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status under Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (“Fair Housing Act”). The new regulations, which will directly impact Homeowners Associations (“HOAs”), are set to take effect October 14, 2016.
Both Courts and HUD have long recognized that the Fair Housing Act prohibits harassment in housing and housing related transactions on account of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status in the same way that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) prohibits harassment on these same basis in an employment setting. Prior to HUD’s adoption of these new regulations, Courts often applied Title VII standards when evaluating claims of harassment in the housing setting. However, because employment and home settings are different environments, the application of one to another is not always appropriate. To address these deficiencies, HUD recently adopted formal standards for evaluating claims of harassment under the Fair Housing Act.
The new regulations directly impact HOAs because their directors and officers are the ones who are responsible for investigating an owner’s or tenant’s claim of housing related harassment. Furthermore, liability for harassment under the Fair Housing Act can be imposed not just on the HOA but on its officers and directors for their own actions as well as the actions of third-party agents like a management company.