In my last post, I discussed the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (“HUD”) Rule 100.600 (the “Rule”), published by HUD last September. In the post, I focused on that Rule’s prohibition of hostile environment harassment, and in my humble opinion, I believe that aspect of the Rule created a standard of liability that may come as a surprise to many landlords. The Rule also contained another important aspect, prohibition quid pro quo harassment, which I will focus on in this post.
So what is quid pro quo harassment? The official definition per HUD Rule Section 100.600(A)(1) is an “unwelcome request or demand to engage in conduct where submission to the request or demand, either explicitly or implicitly, is made a condition related to: The sale, rental or availability of a dwelling; the terms, conditions, or privileges of the sale or rental, or the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith; or the availability, terms, or conditions of a residential real estate-related transaction.” And what does that mean in plain English? Essentially, as a landlord, you cannot condition the availability of any of your normal services, practices, or policies—or the availability or rental terms of the unit itself—on the resident or prospect engaging in certain conduct. As a couple of obvious examples, you (or your employees) cannot condition a maintenance request on a resident performing sexual favors, nor can you condition the availability of an apartment on a prospect performing sexual favors.
Similarly to hostile environment harassment, as a landlord you need to ensure that you and your employees are not engaging in any type of quid pro quo harassment. Common sense, right? But you also need to make sure that your residents are not engaging in this type of behavior, because you (as a landlord) can be directly liable if you know (or should have known) of the harassment and fail to take prompt action to stop it.
So what’s the bottom line? Well, this part of HUD Rule 100.600 seems pretty intuitive, and I feel pretty confident that most landlords know that they should not be engaging in this type of behavior. I would, however, advise that you need to act quickly to stop this behavior if you are aware of occurrences between residents. I stated this in my last post, but it bears repeating—simply put, always act promptly to stop harassment, wherever and whenever it occurs.