Community managers don’t typically like to interject themselves into disputes between residents. In many cases, residents are able to work things out on their own without the needing the association to get involved. However, in some situations, the association can actually be held liable for failing to take action to correct resident-to-resident harassment per Fair Housing Act (FHA) regulations. The particular FHA rule in this scenario is known as “Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices.”
Under FHA regulations, an association may be held liable for failing to take corrective action in a resident-to-resident dispute if the following four conditions can be held true:
- The harassment is perpetuated on account of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability.
If a resident is being discriminated against by another resident in any of the aforementioned ways, they have grounds for a hostile environment harassment claim against their community association. In any other type of harassment situation, such as a financial dispute, past personal history or because one resident simply does not like another resident, a community association would not be held liable.
- The harassment is severe or pervasive.
Conduct that is “sufficiently severe or pervasive as to interfere with: the availability, sale, rental, or use or enjoyment of a dwelling” falls under the FHA’s definition of hostile environment harassment.
- The association has requisite knowledge of the harassment occurring.
If a board member witnesses one resident discriminate against another resident, or if the board receives a report from a third party regarding a resident discriminating against another resident, it can be proven that they had requisite knowledge of the harassment.
- The association possessed the power to correct the harassment.
Many associations possess the power to correct resident-to-resident harassment because they already have specific rules in place that prohibit offensive activity within the community and subject the offender(s) to fines or other corrective actions.
Simply put, associations are responsible for third parties over which they have some control or legal responsibility. This typically includes the residents in the community as well as any contractors hired by the association. In order to protect your community association from being held liable for resident-to-resident harassment, you should consider the following actions:
- Invest in educating board members, managers, employees and volunteers about FHA regulations, as well as the different types of discrimination they should look for within resident disputes.
- Use all enforcement provisions allowed under the community’s bylaws to quickly correct and end discriminatory conduct.
- Develop and enforce anti-discrimination policies for the association if there are not currently any in place.
- When a harassment complaint is received, address it as quickly as possible.
- Offer mediation for resident disputes when needed.
In some cases, these actions may be more than the association is legally required to do, but going above and beyond is always far better than not doing enough.
About Kevin Davis Insurance Services
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