HUD’s Harassment and Quid Pro Quo Rules Affect Condominiums

Effective October 14, 2016, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a final rule formalizing standards for use in investigating and deciding allegations of discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status, or disability under the anti-discrimination provisions of the Fair Housing Act.  This rule makes it clear that condominium associations have a duty to investigate claims of co-owner-on-co-owner harassment and to pursue violations in accordance with the remedies under the governing documents.

The rule defines two types of harassment:  “quid pro quo” harassment and hostile environment harassment.  In the condominium context, quid pro quo harassment refers to an unwelcome demand or request to engage in conduct which is made a condition to the provision of services, and hostile environment harassment means unwelcome conduct which is sufficiently severe or pervasive so as to interfere with the use or enjoyment of a dwelling.

Under the rules, a board of directors may be held liable when it fails "to take prompt action to correct and end a discriminatory housing practice by a third-party, where the [board] knew or should have known of the discriminatory conduct and had the power to correct it.

Most condominium documents ban conduct which is a nuisance, which is an annoyance to other co-owners, or which is unlawful.  Some condominium documents grant the association power to impose fines (after notice and a hearing) or to seek injunctive relief.  If the association were made aware that one co-owner were harassing another co-owner on the basis of a protected characteristic (race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status, or disability), the association now has a clear-cut obligation under the new rule to intervene to the extent provided by the condominium documents.

The following are some scenarios in which an associations duty to intervene might arise:

  • A co-owner blocks a handicapped parking space.
  • A co-owner exposes himself to one or other co-owners.
  • A co-owner makes racist remarks at the annual meeting.
  • A co-owner defaces or destroys another co-owner’s religious holiday decorations.

© Steve Sowell 2017