Although the federal Fair Housing Act makes no mention of prohibiting housing discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation, the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled the law mandates that landlords must protect LGBT tenants from harassment by other tenants.
According to a Chicago Tribune report, the three-judge court unanimously sided with 70-year-old Marsha Wetzel, who sued Glen St. Andrew Living Community in Niles, Ill., in 2016 for failing to stop other residents from subjecting her to homophobic insults and physical assault because of her sexual orientation. The court ruled that the living center chose to take retaliatory measures against Wetzel after she complained about the abuse, including barring her from certain common areas, while no action was taken against those responsible for the harassment. Wetzel’s federal lawsuit was initially dismissed, but the appeals court overturned that ruling and returned the case to the trial court.
“Not only does it (the Fair Housing Act) create liability when a landlord intentionally discriminates against a tenant based on a protected characteristic; it also creates liability against a landlord that has actual notice of tenant-on-tenant harassment … yet chooses not to take any reasonable steps within its control to stop that harassment,” 7th Circuit Appeals Court Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote.