‘Hostile Housing Environment’ Claim Survives Summary Judgment in HOA Lawsuit
Federal court allows legal action alleging that an Indianapolis homeowners association and its property management company were aware of racial harassment in the Twin Creeks subdivision and did not take legal action to prevent the problematic neighbor using offensive language and making threats.
The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana and a former resident of the Twin Creeks subdivision filed a complaint in April 2020, claiming that the Twin Creeks Homeowners Association and Kirkpatrick Management Co., Inc. as well as neighbor Vicky New violated the Fair Housing Act. . They detail years of intimidation and verbal reprimands against neighbors, as well as the use of racist names and threats of bodily harm.
In January, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana found that the plaintiffs had enough factual allegations to pursue their allegations of violations of the Federal Fair Housing Act, the Fair Housing Act of l ‘Indiana and Federal Civil Rights Act.
After the defendants were granted dismissal of some of the claims, they filed a motion for summary judgment on the remaining Fair Housing Act claims pursuant to 42 USC Â§ 3601. and following. and the Civil Rights Act claim under 42 USC Â§ 1982.
In a December 17 decision in Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, Inc., and Donata Banks, v. Vicki New, Kirkpatrick Management Company, Inc. and Twin Creeks Homeowners Association, Inc., 1: 20-cv-01176, the Southern Indiana District Court issued summary judgment in part, but allowed one of the fair housing claims and the section 1982 claim.
The federal court issued summary judgment on 42 USC Â§Â§ 3604 (a) which prohibits denial of housing based on race, color, religion, sex, familiar statue or national origin and (c) which prohibited from making public notice that the home is available only to certain persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familiar status or national origin.
However, the court rejected the summary judgment on 42 USC Â§ 3604 (b) which prohibits discrimination against any person in the sale or rental of a home on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familiar status or national origin.
“The evidence referred to by the parties could allow a reasonable investigator to conclude that a hostile housing environment based on race and national origin existed at Twin Creeks,” wrote Chief Justice Tanya Walton Pratt. âFor years, New openly and brazenly harassed and verbally assaulted his neighbors because of their race and national origin. The designated evidence could also allow a reasonable investigator to conclude that New’s conduct, intimidation and threats interfered with the banks’ enjoyment of their housing rights.
Specifically, the court noted that the plaintiffs indicated that the defendants were aware of News’s racial harassment as early as September 2016 and that the CCRs gave the defendants the power to take legal action against New.
The defendants replied that the letters they wrote to New were a reasonable response to his racial harassment and there is no evidence that they intentionally discriminated against neighbors complaining about New’s behavior.
By allowing the 3604 (b) request to continue, the court found that these factual disputes should be decided by an investigator.
Likewise, the court concluded that summary judgment was not warranted on the claim under section 1982.
âThe rights of the banks to use and profit from its assets have been compromised, and there is evidence that supports an inference – which should be decided by the investigator – that the defendants had discriminatory intent because they brought suing News for non-payment of HOA dues but failed to initiate legal action against New for his racial harassment, âWalton Pratt wrote.