Landlord Not Responsible for Tenant-on-Tenant Harassment
LVT Number: #31395
An African-American tenant sued landlord of Suffolk County apartment complex in federal court in 2014 after a three-year "campaign of racial harassment, abuse, and threats" by tenant's white neighbor. The neighbor was eventually convicted of misdemeanor harassment and moved out of the complex after landlord refused to renew his lease. Tenant claimed that landlord discriminated against him based on race, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1966, and the NY State Human Rights Law. The federal district court dismissed the case.
Tenant appealed and won. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, under the FHA, a housing provider may be held liable for failing to address tenant-on-tenant harassment, just as an employer may be held responsible for worker-on-worker harassment. Landlord requested reconsideration, and the Court of Appeals then held an en banc rehearing before all judges of that court.
The appeals court then voted by a slim majority to reverse the panel's decision and reinstate the lower court's ruling that dismissed all of tenant's claims against landlord. The court found tenant's claim to be too speculative to support tenant's claim of racial animus on the part of the landlord. The court also rejected the original panel's finding that tenant-on-tenant harassment was like worker-on-worker harassment.
Francis v. Kings Park Manor, Inc.: 992 F.3d 67, NYLJ No. 1617023789 (2d Cir. Ct. App.; 3/25/21; Cabranas, CJ)