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What should an HOA do about neighborhood sexual harassment?

If you live in a neighborhood or community in California that has a Homeowners' Association, you may understand how difficult it can be to work with these organizations sometimes. HOAs have a notorious reputation for citing and fining homeowners for even the smallest of infractions. This can be frustrating for property owners.

Some HOAs may pay attention to the smallest of details and nag homeowners about seemingly unimportant things, but at the same time, they may overlook some of the most important issues. There is reason to believe that many California HOAs overlook complaints involving sexual harassment from residents, property managers and others. There are new rule changes to regulations set by The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing that would change an HOA's responsibilities for cases involving sexual harassment. 

What does the HOA have to do?

Before these rule changes were effective, HOAs had an obligation to address complaints of sexual harassment, but there was frequently confusion about how to do this, especially in cases involving two homeowners. While the Department of Fair Employment and Housing does not list specific steps an HOA has to take, it does give recommendations on how to proceed, including:

  • The HOA should immediately investigate the claims made by the property owner or the resident, including getting witness statements.
  • The HOA should take steps to remove the harasser from the board or prevent that individual from voting on certain HOA issues.
  • The HOA should issue a notice of a rule violation to the offending party.
  • If the harassing party does not stop with his or her behavior, the HOA should issue fines against that person.

While the HOA is not a law enforcement group, there are steps it can take to clearly communicate that sexual harassment is not acceptable in your neighborhood. If you are a victim of this type of inappropriate behavior and your HOA does nothing, you could have grounds to move forward with legal action.

Protecting the rights of homeowners

An HOA should be quick to act when a resident complains that he or she is experiencing sexual harassment from another individual connected with the property. This includes neighbors, property managers, landlords and others. As a victim, you may want to rely on the skill of an attorney experienced in HOA disputes. These are legally complex issues, and you do not have to seek a beneficial resolution on your own.

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