Sexual harassment that occurs in the context of seeking or keeping housing is a violation of federal law. Some house hunters and renters don’t realize this. They also may miss the fact that renters, house hunters, and home owners also have recourse when they are sexually harassed in the context of finding or keeping a rental property or owning a home.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced a settlement in a Fair Housing case brought against David Sheets, a Minneapolis property owner.
According to the HUD official site, the agency has approved an agreement “between a Minneapolis property owner and a female tenant who alleged the landlord solicited sex from her in exchange for a reduction in her rent”.
The Fair Housing Act makes sexual harassment associated with housing a violation of federal law. The Fair Housing Act forbids sexual harassment of tenants as well as harassment and housing discrimination based on race, gender, color, national origin, disability, religion, or family status or lack thereof.
“Being asked to submit to unwelcome sexual advances not only creates a hostile living environment, it’s against the law,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, who was quoted in the HUD press release.
She adds, “Today’s settlement demonstrates HUD’s commitment to ensuring that landlords and other housing providers recognize their obligations under the Fair Housing Act and take steps to comply with those obligations.”
HUD learned of the sexual harassment case when a tenant came forward with a complaint alleging that landlord David Sheets, sexually harassed the victim while she was living in one of Sheets’s apartments.
“Specifically,” the HUD press release states, “the woman alleged that on numerous occasions during her tenancy, the landlord requested sex from her in exchange for a reduction in her rent”.
Under the settlement announced by HUD, David Sheets (who denies the allegations), agrees to pay $30,000 to the woman and $7,000 to her attorney. The landlord must also contract with “a licensed, independent third-party real estate management company to manage all of his residential properties for the next five years”.
If you have experienced any form of housing discrimination including sexual harassment, file a complaint by contacting the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY).