Resource: Wetzel v. Glen St. Andrew Living Community, LLC: Seventh Circuit Holds Landlords May Be Liable for Tenant-on-Tenant Discriminatory Harassment.

By: Harvard Law Review

May 10, 2019

Harvard Law Review

As federal civil rights statutes, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA), and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 have much in common, but they diverge in one crucial respect. While employers and schools can be held liable for employee-on-employee and student-on-student harassment under Title VII and Title IX, respectively, it remains unsettled whether landlords can be held liable for tenant-on-tenant harassment under the FHA — and if so, by what standard. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) weighed in, prescribing that landlords should be liable under the FHA for “[f]ailing to take prompt action” to remedy cotenant harassment of which they “knew or should have known.” Recently, in Wetzel v. Glen St. Andrew Living Community, LLC, the Seventh Circuit became the first circuit to hold that the FHA provides such liability, but only when landlords had “actual knowledge” of, yet were “deliberately indifferent” to, severe cotenant harassment. In adopting an actual notice standard instead of a constructive notice standard, the court sidestepped persuasive doctrinal arguments in favor of the latter. As a result, handed down on the FHA’s fiftieth anniversary, Wetzel falls short of effectively addressing housing harassment.