This article provides additional testimony of Jerry Halberstadt, Coordinator of the Stop Bullying Coalition, to support passage of H3868, “An Act to create the office of the tenant advocate in the Office of the Attorney General.”
- Mobbing is comparable to hostile environment harassment and is significantly different from bullying.
- The provider of housing must assure peaceful enjoyment of all tenants and it is unlawful not to prevent harassment or hostile environment harassment.
- The Fair Housing Law protects tenants in protected classes from hostile environment harassment.
- The proposed law under H3868 would extend protection to all tenants living in public or subsidized housing.
- Hostile environment harassment harms individual victims and the residential community.
- There is no current effective oversight; the tenant advocate will fill that need.
Mobbing has been shown by Janice Harper and by the research and reports of the Commission on Bullying to harm not only the targets but also to infect the whole community.
Janice Harper’s analysis is foundational to understanding the problem. Harper argues that the victim of mobbing can never win and that efforts to apply legal remedies must avoid the trap of blaming the victim.
- Janice Harper, PhD, Bullying and Mobbing in Group Settings; a statement presented to the Massachusetts Commission on Bullying, 7 August 2017. http://stopbullyingcoalition.org/harper-mobbing
Fair Housing Act Rule on Hostile Environment Harassment
The concept of H3868 is based on the final rule on hostile environment harassment under the Fair Housing Act extended to protect tenants of public and subsidized housing without regard to protected characteristics. H3868 addresses hostile environment harassment, which is comparable to mobbing, and distinct from bullying, although bullying may be a component of hostile environment harassment. When hostile environment harassment pervades a housing development, tenants lose their rights, live in fear, and the community is unable to come together for positive outcomes.
- 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 tinyurl.com/y4vkvhs9 “A Rule by the Housing and Urban Development Department”
Attorney General of the Commonwealth
The Office of the Attorney General has affirmed that the landlord and their agents are legally responsible for assuring the rights of tenants including the right of peaceful enjoyment. The rights of tenants are protected by law and the lease, but they have no way to enforce these rights.
- “Office of the Attorney General Advisory: The failure of management and the landlord to assure peaceful enjoyment for all tenants is unlawful, according to the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” tinyurl.com/2e4fspb4
The Attorney General is empowered to act to protect the rights of a victim of bullying and mobbing, including under the authority of MGL c.12 Section c. 12, §§ 11H-J and M.G.L. c. 151B, § 4(4A).2
Section 11H. (a)(1) Whenever any person or persons, whether or not acting under color of law, interfere by threats, intimidation or coercion, or attempt to interfere by threats, intimidation or coercion, with the exercise or enjoyment by any other person or persons of rights secured by the constitution or laws of the United States, or of rights secured by the constitution or laws of the commonwealth, the attorney general may bring a civil action for injunctive or other appropriate equitable relief in order to protect the peaceable exercise or enjoyment of the right or rights secured. Said civil action shall be brought in the name of the commonwealth and shall be instituted either in the superior court for the county in which the conduct complained of occurred or in the superior court for the county in which the person whose conduct complained of resides or has his principal place of business. MGL c.12 Section c. 12, §§ 11H
Scope of problem & lack of oversight
Findings of the statewide survey on bullying, mobbing, and harassment in housing covering 90,000 units in 1,400 developments for elderly and disabled. (617 respondents): hostile environment is widespread, very few victims get effective help.
46% of respondents reported bullying where they live.
Indicators of hostile environment harassment from 30% of respondents
Only 16% of victims who sought help got a successful resolution.
- Jerry Halberstadt and Marvin So, Statewide Survey on Bullying of Tenants in Public and Subsidized Multifamily Housing: Report of the Committee for Research on Conditions and Prevalence of the Commission on Bullying
- Commission on Bullying: RESOLVE CREATING A COMMISSION TO STUDY WAYS TO PREVENT BULLYING OF TENANTS IN PUBLIC AND SUBSIDIZED MULTI-FAMILY HOUSING https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Resolves/2016/Chapter2
Report: Project-Based Section 8 housing
“In Project-Based Section 8 housing, one of the main structural breakdowns affecting the everyday lives of tenants is the lack of a functioning accountability and oversight system for the private property managers who carry out the housing program.”—Molly Rockett
- Molly Rockett, Private Property Managers, Unchecked: The Failures of Federal Compliance Oversight in Project-Based Section 8 Housing, 134 Harv. L. Rev. F. 286 March 2021 https://harvardlawreview.org/forum/vol-134/private-property-managers-un…
Examples of the impact of mobbing and hostile environment harassment
Janice Harper learned through bitter personal experience that being shunned and ostracized by mobbing is destructive. "It affects our sense of belonging, our self-esteem or sense of self worth, our sense of control over our lives, and our sense of having a meaningful existence."
Maureen Duffy and Len Sperry have written about the severe emotional toll of trauma caused by mobbing.
- Duffy, Maureen and Len Sperry, Mobbing: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).
- Duffy, Maureen and Len Sperry, Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying, (New York:Oxford University Press, 2013).
Reports of personal experiences
Hostile environment harassment in an apartment complex and in public housing: reports by Doreen Wade, President of Salem United, Inc., Pamela Goodwin, and about “Margaret,” as well as observations by legislators. See “Tenants report on hostile environment harassment” at http://stopbullyingcoalition.org/collaborate2
Report on the retaliation against Pamela Goodwin: http://stopbullyingcoalition.org/open-letter-retaliation
Pamela Goodwin on choosing to be homeless: http://stopbullyingcoalition.org/no-evictions
Apple Village in Beverly has two HUD-subsidized apartment buildings for elderly and disabled. See the report on community conflict and hostile environment harassment at http://stopbullyingcoalition.org/apple
Homelessness because of mobbing: “Phoebe” http://stopbullyingcoalition.org/phoebe
Hearings before the Joint Committee on Housing from 2014 to 2021 provide extensive testimony with detailed evidence of the need for a solution such as the Tenant Advocate. Please see: