A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about what Board members should do when they are confronted with a person screaming or yelling at them and otherwise acting nuts. In sum, the answer was “just walk away” because in those circumstances there is little you are going to be able to do to convince the maniac that is screaming at you that they should calm down or otherwise discuss the problem in a generally sane manner.
There are times however where an association cannot just walk away. That occurs when two neighbors may be fighting with each other and one neighbor is making comments that creates a hostile environment due to race, religion or color. This is called “hostile environment harassment” and it requires unwelcome conduct because of a protected characteristic that “unreasonably interferes” with the use and enjoyment of a dwelling, or with the exercise of other rights protected by the Fair Housing Act.
A person is directly liable for failing to take prompt action to correct and end a discriminatory housing practice by a third-party, where the person knew or should have known of the discriminatory conduct and had the power to correct it. The power to take prompt action to correct and end a discriminatory housing practice by a third-party depends upon the extent of the person’s control or any other legal responsibility the person may have with respect to the conduct of such third-party.
The duty to take prompt action to correct and end a discriminatory housing practice by a third-party derives from an obligation to the aggrieved person created by contract or lease (including bylaws or other rules of a homeowner’s association, condominium or cooperative), or by federal, state or local law.”
So, suppose the association learns that one owner has called the other owner names that creates a hostile environment due to race, religion or color? What should the association do? Well……we know that as a result of the declaration and rules, the association can legally take steps to correct this situation. The association can certainly send out a letter to the person who allegedly uttered the derogatory words warning them to stop. The association can threaten to fine the person for using these words and finally, the association can threaten to take the person to court seeking a court order that they cease their conduct or that they be removed from the condominium or HOA.
Unlike my prior blog, in this instance JUST WALKING AWAY IS NOT AN OPTION FOR THE ASSOCIATION.