Case #1: Landlord May Be Liable for Tenant-on-Tenant Harassment
Landlords are clearly liable for the sexual, racial, and other discriminatory harassment committed by their employees and other agents. But does that liability extend to third parties they don’t directly control?
Situation: A tenant directs a steady stream of racial and ethnic harassment against her neighbors. The abuse is mostly oral, but it’s constant and egregious, including a steady diet of the “N” word and other appalling nicknames and epithets. Despite constant complaints, the homeowners association doesn’t do anything to stop her. A local fair housing advocacy organization sues the association for racial harassment.
You Make the Call: Does the organization have a valid harassment claim against the association?
Ruling: The Indiana federal court rules that the organization has a valid legal claim for harassment and rejects the association’s motion for summary judgment [Fair Hous. Ctr. of Cent. Ind., Inc. v. Vicki New, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 241159, 2021 WL 5988397].
Takeaway: While the courts have split on the issue, the Vicki ruling follows the majority view that a landlord may be directly liable for discrimination by a tenant against another tenant, if it:
- Knows or should know of the conduct;
- Is in a position to take action to stop the harassment—as the homeowners association was in this case; and
- Doesn’t take any action to curb the harassment.