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tenant on tenant discrimination
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Tenant-on-Tenant Discrimination also Impacts Landlords

A rental housing provider is paying $300K to settle HUD fair housing allegations – not because they directly discriminated, but because tenants harassed other tenants, the landlord failed to stop them, and an order to vacate included the complaining parties.

WASHINGTON – The Fair Housing Act doesn’t simply create rules landlords must follow to avoid charges of discrimination – it also seeks to create a safe environment for all residents. And if one or more tenants illegally harass other tenants, the landlord has an obligation to step in if they know about it.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a Voluntary Compliance Agreement-Conciliation Agreement (VCA-CA) with Cushing Housing Inc. in Oklahoma. The agreement requires Cushing to pay $300,000 to individuals, including former tenants, that were subjected to housing discrimination at Cushing’s property.

The complaint submitted to HUD alleged that Cushing “violated civil rights laws when it failed to address serious, racially motivated harassment that denied (some tenants) the ability to peacefully enjoy their housing. The harassment was so severe that it left them fearful of leaving their apartment and took a substantial toll on their mental health.”

In October, HUD issued a Letter of Findings based on its investigation. The letter found that the “respondents discriminated against the tenants in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Title VI prohibits:

  • Discrimination based on race by recipients of federal financial assistance, including where a recipient fails to adequately respond to known racial harassment against a beneficiary of its program.
  • Retaliating against a person engaged in a protected activity, such as where they seek to have the housing provider address such racial harassment.

Cushing Housing must comply with Title VI because they receive federal financial assistance from HUD.

The allegations

The residents began harassing the tenants who complained to HUD – a white mother and daughter – after the daughter began dating a Black man who spent time at the property. The “pervasive harassment” included racial slurs and threatening racially motivated violence.

The mother and daughter notified Cushing Housing of the harassment a number of times, but, according to investigators, Cushing failed to take prompt action or effective steps reasonably calculated to end it. Instead, they eventually issued a notice to vacate to everyone involved – the mother and daughter, as well as the harassers – which HUD considered unlawful retaliation against the mother for reporting the racial harassment.

In addition to the $300,000 payment to complainants and an aggrieved individual, the agreement requires Cushing Housing to establish an anti-harassment policy, and a fair housing and civil rights compliance policy. It must make both policies available to all tenants and include formal grievance procedures. It must also schedule fair housing and civil rights training for all officers, agents and employees.

People who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUDs Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice), (800) 877-8339 (Relay) or online at

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