The federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects tenants and housing applicants from harassing conduct that is based upon one’s membership in a protected class. For example, tenants have brought claims under the FHA alleging sex discrimination arising out of sexual harassment experienced in connection with their housing. However, discriminatory harassment is not limited to sexual harassment; someone can experience harassment based upon other protected characteristics such as experiencing a disability, race, or religious affiliation.
Harassment claims under the FHA have relied primarily on two theories: quid pro quo harassment and hostile environment harassment. Quid pro quo harassment describes harassment where an unwelcome request or demand is made a condition of accessing housing (e.g., demanding sexual favors from a tenant in exchange for allowing that tenant to pay the rent late). Hostile environment harassment describes harassment that is severe and pervasive enough that it interferes with a person’s ability to access and live in housing. In 2016, HUD finalized regulations that provided formalized standards for analyzing FHA claims under the quid pro quo and hostile environment harassment theories.
Note: This article predates the issuance of the final HUD harassment rule.