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HUD proposes new rule to further protect victims of harassment

Would formalize standards for bringing harassment claims under Fair Housing Act

Victims of harassment in housing may soon have more protection, thanks to a new rule proposed Wednesday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The proposed rule would formalize the standards for victims of harassment in housing to bring claims under the Fair Housing Act.

The proposed rule, “Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices under the Fair Housing Act,” was published in the Federal Register today for public comment.

HUD and the 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, despite no formal regulation being in place, HUD said in a statement.

The proposed rule specifies how claims of “hostile environment” and “quid pro quo” harassment would be evaluated in both private and publicly assisted housing.

“A home should be a refuge where every woman and man deserves to live without the threat of violence or harassment, said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “The rule HUD is proposing is designed to better protect victims of harassment by offering greater clarity for how to handle a claim against an abuser.”

According to HUD, sexual harassment is the most common form of harassment complaint that it receives.

“Harassment in housing threatens a resident’s sense of safety and privacy in their own home, and there can be little opportunity to escape such harassment unless the individual or family moves,” HUD said in a release. “In HUD’s experience enforcing the Fair Housing Act, low-income women, often racial and ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities, may be particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment in housing.”

HUD’s new rule would formalize uniform standards for evaluating claims of hostile environment and quid pro quo harassment in the housing context under the Fair Housing Act.

According to HUD, 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 the right to use and enjoy the housing.”

HUD added that 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.”

The new rule would clarify 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, HUD said.

According to HUD, the general public will have 60 days from the date of publication to submit comments on the proposed rule.

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