Can a landlord be held liable for failing to take prompt action to address a racially hostile housing environment created by one tenant targeting another, where the landlord knew of the discriminatory conduct and had the power to correct it? A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently ruled in the affirmative that a landlord could be so held liable.

In Francis v. Kings Park Manor, plaintiff Donahue Francis, an African-American, signed a residential lease with defendant Kings Park Manor (KPM), an apartment complex in Suffolk County. As alleged in the complaint, not long after he moved in, Francis’s next-door neighbor began to subject Francis to a continuous campaign of racial harassment, abuse and threats. The neighbor repeatedly used racially derogatory language to Francis’s face, told Francis that “I oughta kill you,” and stood at Francis’ open front door and photographed the interior of Francis’s apartment.