HUD Issues Updates for Persons with LEP; Hostile Environment & Quid Pro Quo Harassment

The Department of Housing and Urban Development released two statements this week about added protections against housing discrimination: a new guidance on fair housing for people with limited English proficiency (LEP) and a rule addressing fair housing issues for victims of harassment and survivors of domestic violence.

Speaking about the guidance for people with LEP, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Gustavo Velasquez said, “Having a limited ability to speak English should never be a reason to be denied a home.” Velasquez added, “Every family that calls this nation home has the same rights when it comes to renting or buying a home, regardless of where they come from or language they speak.”

According to the press release, the new guidance addresses how various legal approaches, such as discriminatory effects and disparate treatment, apply in Fair Housing Act cases in which a housing-related decision involves a person’s limited ability to speak, read, write, or understand English. The full guidance can be read here, and has been added to our Resources page under the National Origin tab.

HUD’s second announcement is actually a two-part announcement wherein the first is guidance concerning so-called “nuisance ordinances,” which have been regularly used by housing providers to evict survivors of domestic violence. HUD Secretary Julián Castro succinctly remarked that “no one should have to choose between calling 9-1-1 and being evicted.” In areas where such crime-free or nuisance ordinances exist, housing providers have evoked these ordinances to evict survivors of domestic violence simply for the fact that they called the police for support when they were being assaulted. In simple A-to-B logic, a crime was committed, police were called = tenant must be evicted. Believe it or not, this happens. A lot.

The second part of this announcement is a final Harassment Rule that specifies how HUD will evaluate claims of “hostile environment” and “quid pro quo” harassment in both private and publicly-assisted housing. Low-income women, especially racial and ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities, may be particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment in housing. More, HUD specifies harassment as any activity that creates a hostile environment for a tenant in which the tenant is subjected to “unwelcome conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive such that it interferes with or deprives the person of the right to use and enjoy the housing.”

Both the final rule on harassment and the guidance on nuisance ordinances can be found in the Resource section of our site.