United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division
OPINION & ORDER
M. Herlong, Jr., Senior United States District Judge.
matter is before the court with the Report and Recommendation
of United States Magistrate Judge Jacquelyn D. Austin, made
in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil
Rule 73.02 of the District of South Carolina. Little Tom
Childress, Jr. (“Childress”), proceeding pro se,
alleges a hostile housing environment claim in violation of
§ 804 et seq. of the Fair Housing Act
(“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a) et
seq. (Compl., generally, ECF No. 1.) The remaining
defendants in the instant action, Rebecca Roberts and Boyd
Management LTD (“Defendants”),  filed a motion
for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure. (Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 208.) Magistrate
Judge Austin recommends denying the Defendants' motion
for summary judgement because a reasonable jury could find
that Childress was subjected to harassment that was
sufficiently severe and pervasive to alter his housing
conditions and create an abusive environment. (R&R,
generally, ECF No. 242.) For the reasons stated below, the
court adopts the magistrate judge's Report and
Recommendation and denies the Defendants' motion for
Factual and Procedural History
an African American male, claims that the Defendants racially
discriminated against him, in violation of the FHA, while he
was a tenant at West End Manor (“West End”).
(Compl. 2-6, ECF No. 1.) West End is an apartment complex
located in Union, South Carolina, which is managed by Boyd
Management. (Id. at 2, ECF No. 1.) Roberts was West
End's on-site manager during the alleged incidents.
(Id., ECF No. 1.)
the facts in the light most favorable to Childress, Roberts
allegedly directed racially discriminatory statements and
slurs to Childress and his Caucasian co-tenant, Karen
Ferguson (“Ferguson”), on multiple occasions in
2015. (Id., generally, ECF No. 1.) Childress alleges
that in January 2015, Roberts told him that “colored
people need to stick with their own kind” and he
“[could not] be outside taking pictures with [his]
cellphone[.]” (Resp. Attach. 1 (Supp. Docs. 4), ECF No.
211-1.) Moreover, in February 2015, Roberts allegedly told
Childress that he was “scaring the white folk”
and that he “[could not] be outside with a cellphone in
[his] hand taking pictures.” (Id., ECF No.
211-1.) In addition, on August 4, 2015, Childress contends
that he and Ferguson met with Roberts to sign a
recertification contract, which is required by the federal
rent subsidy process. (Id. at 21, ECF No. 211-1;
Compl. 3, ECF No. 1; Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 8, ECF No.
208-1.) At this meeting, Roberts allegedly belittled
Childress, told him that “they were going to take back
their country from those taking over their country, ”
mentioned the Confederate Flag and how it was her and her
son's heritage, and referenced Childress' skin color.
(Resp. Attach. 1 (Supp. Docs. 21), ECF No. 211-1; Compl. 3,
ECF No. 1.)
Childress submits that on October 13, 2015, Roberts
retaliated against him, for filing a complaint about
Roberts' conduct, by giving him two false violations and
threatening to call the police on him. (Compl. 3, ECF No.1)
Also on October 13, 2015, Roberts allegedly called Childress
a n*****. (Id., ECF No. 1.) Additionally, Childress
submits that he was treated differently than Caucasian
tenants at West Manor because he was given the two false
violations, while two Caucasian tenants were not given
violations. (Id. at 3-4, ECF No. 1.) One Caucasian
tenant purportedly walked around the apartment complex in his
underwear without violation. (Id. at 3, ECF No. 1.)
Further, Childress complained about a Caucasian neighbor for
disturbing the peace, and the neighbor did not receive any
violations. (Id. at 4, ECF No. 1.)
also alleges that Roberts would not provide him with his
paperwork and that his recertification contract was
fraudulent. (Id., ECF No. 1.) Moreover, Childress
claims that Roberts accused him of “authorizing a TV
Satellite” for another tenant. (Resp. Attach. 1 (Supp.
Docs. 15), ECF No. 211-1.) Childress also submits that
Roberts and her mother came to his apartment and were
“banging on [his] door[, ]” which violated West
Manor's policy of providing 24-hour notice.
(Id., ECF No. 211-1.) Additionally, Roberts
allegedly screamed at Childress to not look at Danny, West
Manor's maintenance worker, during a meeting because it
was challenging her authority. (Childress Objs. 4, ECF No.
246.) Further, Roberts accused Childress of knocking on his
neighbors' doors and passing out papers that directed the
neighbors to report Roberts to corporate management. (Am.
Compl. 4, ECF No. 109.) Childress and Ferguson voluntarily
terminated their tenancy at West End in November 2015.
(Compl. Attach. 3 (HUD Determination 5), ECF No. 1-3.)
filed the instant action on September 20, 2017.
(Id., ECF No. 1.) Roberts and Boyd Management filed
a motion for summary judgment on May 9, 2019. (Mot. Summ. J.,
ECF No. 208). On, June 4, 2019, Childress filed a response.
(Resp., ECF No. 211.) After receiving one extension of time,
the Defendants filed a reply on June 21, 2019. (Reply, ECF
No. 217.) On July 19, 2019, after receiving two extensions of
time, Childress filed a sur reply. (Sur Reply, ECF No. 233.)
The magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation on
October 23, 2019, recommending that the Defendants'
motion for summary judgment be denied. (R&R, ECF No.
242.) Childress filed objections on November 5, 2019, and the
Defendants filed objections on November 6, 2019. (Childress
Objs., ECF No. 246; Defs. Objs., ECF No. 247.) This matter is
now ripe for review.
Discussion of the Law
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate only “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In deciding whether a genuine issue of
material fact exists, the evidence of the non-moving party is
to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn
in his favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, “[o]nly disputes
over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under
the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary
will not be counted.” Id. at 248.
litigant “cannot create a genuine issue of material
fact through mere speculation or the building of one
inference upon another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769
F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985). “[W]here the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary
judgment is appropriate.” Monahan v. Cty. of
Chesterfield, Va., 95 F.3d 1263, 1265 (4th Cir. 1996)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “[T]he
mere existence of some alleged factual dispute
between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly
supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is
that there be no genuine issue of material
fact.” Ballenger v. N.C. Agric. Extension
Serv., 815 F.2d 1001, 1005 (4th Cir. 1987) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).
Hostile Housing Environment Claim
Fourth Circuit has not yet addressed whether a plaintiff may
recover under a hostile housing environment claim under the
FHA. However, the Fourth Circuit has decided numerous hostile
work environment claims under Title VII. See, e.g.,
Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corp.,786 F.3d 264 (4th
Cir. 2015); White v. BFI Waste Servs., LLC, 375 F.3d
288 (4th Cir. 2004). Moreover, the Fourth Circuit has held
that Title VII and Title VIII have parallel
“antidiscrimination objectives[.]” See Smith
v. Town of Clarkton, N.C.,682 F.2d 1055, 1065 (4th Cir.
1982). Additionally, district courts within the Fourth
Circuit have recognized hostile housing environment claims
under the FHA, or Title VIII. See, e.g., Williams v.
Poretsky Mgmt., Inc.,955 F.Supp. 490, 495 (D. Md. 1996)
(noting, in part, that “[b]ecause Title VII and Title
VIII share the same purpose-to end bias and prejudice-sexual
harassment should be actionable under Title VIII.”)
(citations omitted). This claim is also ...