The top federal prosecutor in Southern California Monday encouraged anyone who has witnessed or experienced sexual harassment by a landlord, property manager, maintenance worker, or anyone with control over housing to report that conduct to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the ability of many people to pay rent on time and has increased housing insecurity. The DOJ says it has received reports of housing providers trying to exploit the crisis to sexually harass tenants.
Sexual harassment in housing is illegal, and the DOJ vowed to investigate such allegations and pursue enforcement actions where appropriate.
"Sexual harassment in housing is reprehensible and contrary to the rule of law,'' U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said. "My office works closely with state and local partners to identify incidents of sexual harassment in housing and will use all available enforcement tools against perpetrators."
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Sexual harassment in housing includes demands for sex or sexual acts in order to buy, rent or continue renting a home. It also includes other unwelcome sexual conduct that makes it hard to keep living in or feel comfortable in your residence.
The DOJ's Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative was launched in 2017 and has resulted in the filing of lawsuits across the nation alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in housing. As part of the initiative, prosecutors filed a lawsuit in January alleging that the property manager of two apartment buildings in Los Angeles violated the Fair Housing Act by sexually harassing female tenants for more than a decade. The lawsuit alleged that the owners of the property are also responsible for his conduct.
The DOJ, through the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney's Offices, enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.
The DOJ encourages anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in housing, or knows someone who has, to contact the Civil Rights Division by calling 844-380-6178 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Individuals may also report housing discrimination or other civil rights violations to the Civil Rights Section in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office by calling 213-894-2879, emailing USACAC.CV-CivilRights@usdoj.gov.
Those who may be victims may also file a complaint alleging harassment or discrimination in housing with the Department of Housing and Urban Development through its website or by calling 800-669-9777.