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Scott E. Mollen Scott E. Mollen

Landlord-Tenant—Landlord May Be Liable Under Federal Fair Housing Act and State Human Rights Law For Not Addressing Acts of Racial Hostility—Tenant-On-Tenant Racial Discrimination

The salient issue in this case was “whether a landlord may be liable under §§3604 and 3617 of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA) or Act…and analogous provisions of the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL),… 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.” The trial court had dismissed the plaintiff’s claims. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (court), reversed and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

The African American plaintiff (tenant) had signed a lease for an apartment and had taken occupancy. Several months later, a neighbor “began to subject (tenant) to what can only be described as a brazen and relentless campaign of racial harassment, abuse, and threats.” The tenant alleged that he heard the defendant neighbor say “Jews, f… Jews,” while standing in front of their apartments. The neighbor thereafter called the tenant, a “f… (N word).” The neighbor “approached the tenant’s open front door and repeatedly called him (the N word),” and uttered other similarly offensive words.

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