Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Not only does the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 3601-3619, create liability when a landlord intentionally discriminates against a tenant based on a protected characteristic; it also creates liability against a landlord that has actual notice of tenant-on-tenant harassment based on a protected status, yet chooses not to take any reasonable steps within its control to stop that harassment.
Within months of her arrival at Glen St. Andrew Living Community ("St. Andrew"), Marsha Wetzel faced a torrent of physical and verbal abuse from other residents because she is openly lesbian. Time and again, she implored St. Andrew's staff to help her. The staff's response was to limit her use of facilities and build a case for her eviction. Wetzel sued St. Andrew, alleging that it failed to provide her with non-discriminatory housing and that it retaliated against her because of her complaints, each in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA or Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619. St. Andrew insists that the Act affords Wetzel no recourse, because it imposes liability only on those who act with discriminatory animus, an allegation Wetzel had not expressly made of any defendant. The district court agreed and dismissed Wetzel's suit.
Is there a basis to impute liability to St. Andrew for the hostile housing environment?
The court held that Wetzel’s suit was erroneously dismissed for failure to state a claim because under the FHA, the duty not to discriminate in housing conditions encompassed the duty not to permit known harassment on protected grounds. The harassment was severe and pervasive and the landlord was responsible for the building's common areas, where most of the harassment occurred, and the incidents within Wetzel’s apartment occurred because the landlord was exercising a right to enter.