HUD to Apply Fair Housing Act Against Bullying

HUD, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, has begun to apply the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to protect disabled tenants, and others in classes protected by the FHA, from harassment. Harassment is a legal term which includes behavior that is commonly called bullying. We applaud these actions, taken under the leadership of Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. HUD's recent actions are an important step in protecting the rights of tenants. And we believe that such protections should be available to all tenants of HUD subsidized housing, and that the threshold for intervention ought to be lower in order to prevent all bullying in subsidized—indeed, in all—housing.

Under the Fair Housing Act, HUD can investigate and remedy alleged harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status or disability.

HUD can hold providers of housing, including landlords, managers, and their agents responsible for protecting tenants from harassment. With a proposed new rule, HUD seeks to prevent housing providers from making inappropriate sexual or other demands on tenants, and clarifies the responsibility of the housing provider to prevent harassment that creates a hostile environment depriving tenants of their rights. Housing providers can not evade liability for harassment that takes place in their buildings.

HUD charges housing provider with discrimination

In an administrative court action, HUD has charged the owner and managers of an apartment complex in Cross Plains, Wisconsin with discrimination against two disabled tenants by failing to prevent their harassment by neighbors, and by refusing to renew their lease.

Whereas we have learned of a number of cases where landlords and managers claim to have no responsibility for the relations among neighbors in subsidized apartments for independent living, HUD asserts in this case that a housing provider is obligated to protect residents from harassment under the terms of the Fair Housing Act.

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for a housing manager or owner to fail to fulfill a duty to correct and end the harassment of one tenant by another, when that harassment is based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or, as was the case here, disability. The Fair Housing Act also makes it unlawful to interfere with any person’s right to enjoy their home.

“A person’s home should be where they feel the greatest level of comfort—not anguish and fear because of being subjected to humiliating and degrading comments,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Harassing a person because of their disability is not only disturbing, it is illegal.” (1)

Tenants, manager act to get rid of disabled persons

The elements of this situation parallel many other situations of bullying. In the Wisconsin case, the victims were characterised by other residents as not suitable for independent living in the facility, and they were bullied and harassed. The government alleges that neighbors of the victims said, "You don't belong here...You belong in an institution." This was bullying.

The manager stated that his policy is not to get involved with neighbor disputes. Thus the manager set up a situation of what one of us (Halberstadt) has identified as institutional bullying, (2) where management pretends to have no obligation or responsibility to intervene. But it got worse, as the manager joined the chorus of those seeking to get rid of the victims; he decided that the victims were not capable of independent living, refused to act against the ongoing bullying and harassment, and finally refused to renew the lease of the victims. This was a case of mobbing, where management and tenants ganged up on the victims, claiming they did not belong in the residential setting and seeking to get rid of the victims. (3)

HUD proposes rule against harassment

On October 21, 2015, HUD has proposed a rule that would formalise and define harassment under the Fair Housing Act. While the rule only clarifies existing law and regulations, the impact may be significant and help to prevent harassment in private as well as subsidized residences.

"A home should be a refuge where every woman and man deserves to live without the threat of violence or harassment. The rule HUD is proposing is designed to better protect victims of harassment by offering greater clarity for how to handle a claim against an abuser," said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. (4)

The rule addresses two kinds of harassment: quid pro quo or "this-for-that," where the housing provider demands sexual favors or other unwanted actions in exchange for providing housing and rights of a tenant; and hostile environment, where the victim is unable to enjoy their home and may be forced to leave because of intolerable harassment. Such an environment is comparable to mobbing. (2)

Finally, in a very important clarification of the responsibilities of the provider of housing, the rule would eliminate the possibility that any provider or their agents could escape legal liability for harassment based on discrimination. (5)

Looking forward

If this rule is accepted, owners, managers, staff and others who are part of the housing administration would find it prudent to take all necessary steps to prevent harassment of persons covered under the Fair Housing Act. And, while this would not protect all residents directly, we could anticipate that in a community where there is no harassment of specifically protected persons, there would be little or no harassment because of the more positive environment. Please review the rule and file your comments in support.

More needs to be done

HUD's approach to harassment based on discrimination of people in specific protected classes is a good thing, but it only applies to people of protected classes who have been harassed because of their protected characteristics.

We would argue, based on research and expert opinion, that harassment is an emergent characteristic of an institution, and thus the only effective way to prevent harassment of people in protected classes is to protect all of the people by setting up an institutional culture of prevention and enforcement.

Therefore, HUD should rule against all bullying/harassment throughout the HUD empire by extension of their proposed rule, ie., holding the housing provider and all agents liable for any harassment taking place in housing subsidized in any way by HUD..



(2) Jerry Halberstadt, Stop Bullying: Creating healthy communities for the elderly and disabled, (Peabody:Togethering Press), 2017.



(5) Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices Under the Fair Housing Act; A Proposed Rule by the Housing and Urban Development Department on 10/21/2015. Federal Register Oct 21, 2015

The public may submit comments on the rule at Comments are due 12/21/2015 at 11:59 PM EST. There is a form for submission at the head of the Federal Register publication on the rule.

Persons who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed at or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple and Android devices.


What about landlords who continually harass tenants by inaccurate lease violations for petty offenses, surveillance on tenants, and community rules.

My son and myself along with friends and neighbors have been bullied constantly by tenant. My son is called a F*****Faggot and I'm called f****B*** he videos us whenever we come or go. I have so much anxiety and my son now suffer migraines. I've complained in writing to the HUD mgmt only to be told there is nothing they can do. I was told I could move. Well I'm obviously in HUD housing because I'm low income. While the harassing neighbor is not low income. The sheriff cannot do anything either and when the neighbor , choked my son it was his word against my son so no restraining order was issuued. We have the right to live in peace. This man has harassed others. They have filed police reports.//yet mgmt can't do anything. Ridiculous

In reply to by Nan (not verified)

Apply with your complaint to Fair Housing. Reach out to elected local and state officials. Any state or local laws about harassment? Landlord is always responsible to assure "peaceful enjoyment" by all tenants. 

I have a judgement through a court of law, and the management still protects said person...

Toni, go back to the court and ask for the judgement to be enforced. Courts don't like to be ignored when they give an order.

More than Nan's comment that local HUD's reply is simply to move, I call for advise to avoid a problem and can't get a question out of my mouth before the reply of "You can move. If you don't like where you live, you can find somewhere else". My local office doesn't feel obligated to reasonably accomodate or even discuss my limitations at their facilities.
Please tell us how it is that HUD had taken up a position when your replies, have advised to shift to Fair Housing or Law Enforcement? Wouldn't the answer that supports your statement be to direct responders to a form filing either complaints or educational requests toward appropriate non-compliant local authorities?
I understand that HUD is a voluntary program which makes enforcement of rules a tricky notion retrospectively. Including limitations of HUD's power may be what is lacking from your statement and explainations of local authorities responces.
As a shiny bauble, this article is quite nice. But when looking from the underside, by those of us upon whom it actually rests, it is harsh, prickly and heavy.
Please don't minimize the responses you read. For every one, there are thousands more. Those thousands haven't responded because they lack resources, don't believe or trust in your agency anymore, or never did. What I know is, this is a great idea, but doesn't exist in the real world. Don't believe me. Have participants call random local HUD offices and ask a question regarding a situation that qualifies.
These people speak the truth. Listen

I have to apologize Jerry. My arrival on this page led me to believe I was on a HUD site and the article was generated by a HUD official. I am unable to edit my previous comment, as far as I am able to see. Please accept my apology for remarks regarding circumstances beyond your control.

I need help real bad The manager saids she cant do anything about this man forces and passes Boundaries on me and they laugh and they believe its funny? I dont know what to do and yes i turn it in to police officers and nothing gets done? Thers more to tell but Everyone is just scareing me? sincerely Doris X

Dee, thank you for sharing your experiences about the frustrations of trying to get your rights respected. The Fair Housing Act may actually provide some remedies if you are prepared to file a grievance. Unfortunately, the new rule on harassment put out by the Fair Housing section of HUD only applies to harassment that is focused on one's disability, but it does at least begin to provide some protections.


There is nothing amusing about bullying and sexually harassing anyone, especially a person living with disability. Consider applying for relief to Fair Housing, see in article. 

Contact your state office of the Protection and Advocacy
(P&A) agency
. The P&A system is a
national network of disability rights agencies investigating
abuse and neglect and providing legal representation and
other advocacy services to people with disabilities.

National Disability Rights Network

A national nonprofit representing protection and advocacy
agencies. NDRN is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP). There is a P&A/CAP agency in every state and U.S. territory as well as one serving the Native American population in the four corners region.

Collectively, the P&A/CAP network is the largest provider of
legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in
the United States.
820 1st Street NE, Suite 740, P: 202-408-9514, F: 202-408-9520,
TTY: 202-408-9521
Listing of state agencies:

i was evicted due to complaining about harassment in my building you may contact me at erie pa 16511 (identifying information deleted by editor)