|Ayars & Associates, LLC--Patricia Ayars
Federal regulations were changed to address harassment and discrimination claims to “housing providers.” Even though associations are not really housing providers, they are covered by the regulations.
As of October 14, 2016, boards of directors are required to address members' claims of harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability. Harassment may be by other residents, board members, managers, and vendors. Boards are required to take prompt steps to eliminate discriminatory harassment..
In determining if harassment occurred, boards can evaluate the nature of the unwelcome conduct, the context in which the incidents occur, the severity, scope, frequency, duration, and location of the conduct, and the relationships of the people involved. The person who is harassed does not have to suffer any economic, physical or psychological harm.
Complaints can be made to HUD and in Connecticut, to CHRO.
Harassment can include board actions, like comments at meetings or the imposition of fines. If one resident harasses another and the Board does not properly act, the harassed resident can file a claim against the Board. Even creating a hostile environment could be harassment. Harassment can involve unit owners, tenants and family members.
If harassment is alleged, boards must investigate. Even if the board determines a complaint is unfounded, its findings must be carefully documented. A claim as to the Board findings can still be filed and investigated by HUD or CHRO. The resident’s cost of filing a claim is zero. The Board’s cost of defending a discrimination claim can be very high. Associations need insurance coverage to pay for the defense of these claims.
It is imperative that Boards adopt anti-harassment rules that cover everyone in the Association. There should be procedures for reporting harassment and standards for investigating harassment. The Board also need to adopt procedures for their determinations and remedies if harassment is found.