Finally, We Will Stop Bullying of Elderly & Disabled Residents

Today, tenants have no way to protect themselves from bullying, mobbing, hostile environment harassment, and retaliation, nor can they enforce their rights. Bullying deprives the target of dignity, safety, social connection, and psychological health and creates a toxic community.

Tomorrow, with your help, we will regain our rights, when we have the laws and ombuds office to reliably protect residents from bullying, mobbing, and hostile environment harassment, and thereby assure our rights—as humans, citizens, and tenants.

Public and subsidized housing in Massachusetts includes 1,400 residential developments, with over 92,000 units for elderly and disabled persons; others use vouchers in market rate settings. Almost half the respondents to a survey done by the Commission on Bullying reported being bullied in their residential setting, and about 30% also observed others being bullied. (1)  The reports of the Commission on Bullying, (2) research and publications by experts, (3)  and testimony by tenants (4)  clearly establish the need for an ombuds office.

Senator Joan B. Lovely presented S.985 An Act relative to bullying in public housing to establish a statewide tenant protective services ombuds program for elderly and disabled tenants in public and subsidized housing. This legislation will assure protection from bullying and create accountability for landlords. It is an essential prerequisite and companion to S.900, An Act to prevent and respond to bullying of elderly and disabled residents, by Lovely and H.1407 by Representative Kevin Honan.

S.985 will implement and extend the principle stated by the Attorney General—it is unlawful to prevent others from enjoying their rights as citizens and tenants.


(1) Jerry Halberstadt and Marvin So, Statewide Survey on Bullying of Tenants in Public and Subsidized Multifamily Housing, 2017.

(2) Commission to Study Ways to Prevent Bullying of Tenants in Public and Subsidized Multi-Family Housing, pursuant to Chapter 2 of the Resolves of 2016

(3) Janice Harper, PhD, “Bullying and Mobbing in Group Settings”

(4) Testimony on Bullying Bills Before the Joint Committee on Housing, April, 2019. ~ Citizens support creation of legislative commission on bullying, S709, July 14, 2015

(5) Office of the Attorney General Advisory: All Tenants Have a Right to Be Free from Harassment and Intimidation, April 11, 2018.


Jerry Halberstadt, To Stop Bullying: Legislative Remedies to Protect Elderly and Persons With Disabilities in Subsidized and Public Housing. A Report of the Stop Bullying Coalition, (Peabody: Togethering Press, 2018). Revised version of Halberstadt’s minority report to the General Court on the Commission to Study Ways to Prevent Bullying of Tenants in Public and Subsidized Multi-Family Housing, pursuant to Chapter 2 of the Resolves of 2016.

Jerry Halberstadt, Community Norms, Social Distancing & Bullying

FR–5248–F–02 Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices Under the Fair Housing Act, Final Rule published in the Federal Register on September 14, 2016, CFR Citation: 24 CFR 100, p. 63075.