Condominium boards and homeowners associations have a responsibility to address allegations of discrimination by their members. A board’s duty to address a complaint under fair housing laws is triggered if the alleged harassment is due to the tenant’s membership in a protected category. Condominium boards and homeowner associations usually have powers that include restricting its members’ use of common areas. Because they have the power to “do something about” complaints, these entities are required to address allegations of harassment.
FAQ - I am a board member of a homeowner’s association. If two neighbors do not get along are you saying we have to solve their disagreements?
Your duty to respond depends on the specific facts of the situation. A condo board or property owner’s association that has the power to penalize property/condo owners for behavior that creates problems for their neighbors should look into allegations of harassing behavior by a neighbor. This is especially true if the allegations relate to a person’s membership in a protected category such as a woman alleging that her male neighbor is sexually harassing her. There are some cases where boards have been held liable when a board has ignored complaints of neighbor-on-neighbor harassment.
FAQ - If there is no clear guidance regarding a board’s responsibility when there is an allegation of harassment what can a board do to protect itself?
First, talk with your attorney and review your bylaws and rules. Second, make sure your procedures regarding how members file a complaint with the board are clear and followed consistently. Third, listen to both sides. Fourth, ask the parties if they have a suggestion for a solution. Fifth, use the powers that have been given to the board. For example, if the board can restrict members’ access to common areas, a solution might be to have both parties restricted from the common area in front of each others’ units. In addition, it might be helpful to have the police talk with both parties. In any event, do not ignore the situation.