Behind every good intention can be unintentional consequences. Behind every real problem, abuses of the system can occur.
What some might consider to be an innocent flirt, what if an applicant or resident might view it as sexual harassment?
Thus everyone should be aware of a new initiative between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which could bring a world of hurt to Manufactured Home Community (MHC) owners, or perhaps even to manufactured home retailers too.
Obviously, there are genuine cases of sexual harassment – or other violations of the Fair Housing Act – which merit the kind of response that the federal government has just announced.
HUD and DOJ Announce National Program
In a release to the Daily Business News, HUD and the DOJ have announced nationwide plans to combat sexual harassment.
“All discrimination stains the very fabric of our nation, but HUD is especially focused on protecting the right of everyone to feel safe and secure in their homes, free from unwanted sexual harassment,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “No person should have to tolerate unwanted sexual advances in order to keep a roof over his or her head. Part of our mission at HUD is to provide safe housing and we will remain diligent in this mission to protect those we serve. I look forward to working with Attorney General Sessions and the Department of Justice as part of this task force to bring an end to this type of discrimination.”
“Sexual harassment in housing is illegal, immoral, and unacceptable,” said Attorney General Sessions.
“It is all too common today, as too many landlords, managers, and their employees attempt to prey on vulnerable women. We will not hesitate to pursue these predators and enforce the law. In October, I ordered a new initiative to bring more of these cases, and we have already won relief for 15 victims. Today we announce three new steps to make the initiative more effective and to win more cases. I want to thank the dedicated and committed professionals in our Civil Rights Division and our partners in the Department of Housing and Urban Development for their hard work in this effort. We will continue to aggressively pursue harassers, because everyone has a right to be safe in their home,” Sessions stated.
A pilot program was already launched in various places in the U.S.
White it’s announced focus is rental property, retailers or others who engage the home seeking public should realize that this initiative could become part of this effort too.
Per HUD’s release to MHProNews, “In October 2017, the Justice Department announced an initiative to combat sexual harassment in housing and launched pilot programs in D.C. and the Western District of Virginia. The initiative sought to increase the Department’s efforts to protect women from harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, security guards, and other employees and representatives of rental property owners.”
During these pilots, “the Department developed and tested ways to better connect both with victims of sexual harassment in housing and with those organizations that victims may turn to first for help – including law enforcement, legal services providers, public housing authorities, sexual assault services providers, and shelters. The Department also tested certain aspects of the initiative in other jurisdictions, including New Jersey, the Central District of California, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Michigan.”
Two examples of fair housing cases involving manufactured housing in recent years are posted below.
More Complaints Followed HUD, DOJ Pilot Campaign
These pilots created an “upswing” in legal complai9nts.
“The two pilot programs generated an upswing in harassment reporting to the Department from both D.C. and the Western District of Virginia. In D.C., the Department generated six leads since the October 2017 launch. In Virginia, the Department generated three leads. While the Justice Department recognizes that leads and investigations do not always lead to enforcement actions, the pilot program’s results—when extrapolated across all the U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country—could lead to hundreds of new reports of sexual harassment in housing across the country.”
Because of what they called “promising results,” the HUD is rolling out three major components to the initiative. Per their statement, the following.
“First, the new HUD-DOJ Task Force to Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing will drive a shared strategy between the Department and HUD for combatting sexual harassment in housing across the country. It will focus on five key areas: continued data sharing and analysis, joint development of training, evaluation of public housing complaint mechanisms, coordination of public outreach and press strategy, and review of federal policies.
Second, the outreach toolkit is designed to leverage the HUD and Justice Department’s nationwide network of U.S. Attorney’s Offices. The toolkit provides templates, guidance, and checklists based on pilot program feedback. It ultimately will amplify available enforcement resources and help victims of sexual harassment connect with the Department.
Third, the public awareness campaign has three major components: a partnership package with relevant stakeholders, launch of a social media campaign, and Public Service Announcements (PSAs) run by the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys. The campaign is specifically designed to raise awareness, and make it easier for victims all over the country to find resources and report harassment.”
Owners and Professionals, Knowledge and Fairness Are Power
MHProNews published years of articles by an attorney who specialized in the field, “The Fair Housing Lady,” Nadeen Green, J.D.
Neither MHProNews – nor writers for this publication – are your attorney. Nor are we giving legal advice per se, but rather are providing awareness of the issues and related news.
That said, common sense says that honesty and an understanding of both legitimate risks and possible abuses of the system should all be on the minds of professionals and owners.
As several past reports in the Daily Business News have noted, manufactured home communities have periodically been caught up in Fair Housing cases. The examples linked above are just 2 of many.
Anyone selling to, or dealing directly with the public in housing ought to be aware of the law, and apply the rules of decency and good sense.
That could start as simply as following the words of Jesus of Nazareth, “Do unto others as you would have others do to you.” (Mt 7:12, Luke 6:31). ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)
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Submitted by Soheyla Kovach to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.com.
Soheyla is a managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.