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Federal appeals court rules landlords can be liable for tenant harassment
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Federal appeals court rules landlords can be liable for tenant harassment

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Friday that a man who allegedly faced repeated racial harassment by his neighbor was entitled to have his case heard in the district court, remanding the case for further proceedings.

Between February 2012 and September 2012, Donahue Francis was allegedly harassed and threatened by his neighbor, Raymond Endres, on multiple occasions in which Francis was subjected to explicitly racial epithets. During the final instance in September, Endres “stood at Francis’s open front door and photographed the interior of Francis’s apartment.”

During the period of harassment, Francis filed multiple police reports and notified the defendant apartment complex, Kings Park Manor, Inc. of the problems. Endres was also arrested for aggravated harassment, about which the apartment complex was notified, and which ultimately led to a protection order in April 2013 (three months after Endres moved out of the apartment complex) barring Endres from contacting Francis. However, the defendants took no action to remedy the problems nor did they reply to Francis’s complaints.

Francis brought allegations under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA), 42 USC sections 3604 and 3617. His allegations, based on FHA protections against discrimination in housing, were dismissed in the district court. However, the appealscourt found that the provisions of the act extend to post-acquisition discrimination, stating, “it would make no sense for Congress to require landlords to rent homes without regard to race but then permit them to harass or otherwise discriminate against tenants because of race.”

Citing a Seventh Circuit ruling as the only circuit to have grappled with the issue of landlord liability for tenant-on-tenant issues, the court says there is “liability against a landlord that has actual notice of tenant-on-tenant harassment based on a protected status, yet chooses not to take any reasonable steps within its control to stop that harassment.”

Without making a ruling concerning the facts, the court remanded the case, stating that while the facts of the case may be found against Francis, he “is entitled to discovery regarding these issues.”

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