HUD has announced that it will publish a final rule titled “Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices under the Fair Housing Act” on September 14, 2016. This final rule will formalize the standards for use in investigations and adjudications involving allegations of harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability. The rule defines and specifies how HUD will evaluate “hostile environment” and “quid pro quo” harassment claims under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and clarifies the operation of traditional principles of direct and vicarious liability in the FHA context. The final rule will become effective 30 days after it’s publication in the Federal Register.
During the proposed rulemaking stage of this final rule, NAHRO submitted comments to HUD commending the Department’s objective to protect individuals who experience harassment. NAHRO also expressed concerns over some aspects of the proposed rule, particularly the proposed rule’s definition of “direct liability” and the unintended consequences that may arise from that definition. Under the proposed rule, a housing provider and their employees and agencies would be held directly liable when it fails to “fulfill a duty to take prompt action to correct and end a discriminatory housing practice by a third-party.” NAHRO’s comment letter expressed concern over scenarios where the third party is outside the scope of control of the principal.
Along with the final rule, HUD’s Office of General Counsel 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’s press release on the final rule can be accessed here.
Deeper analysis of the final rule and guidance will be forthcoming for NAHRO members.