|HUD No. 10-229
October 7, 2010
HUD CHARGES IOWA LANDLORDS WITH SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN TENANTS
Property manager engaged in sex-for-rent harassment
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced that it is charging Waterloo, Iowa, apartment complex Elders, Inc., employee Michael Nieman, and J.S. Property Management L.C. with housing discrimination for allegedly harassing female tenants through repeated unwanted sexual comments and advances. HUD alleges that property manager Nieman requested sexual favors in exchange for rent or other housing benefits.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, sex, color, national origin, disability, religion and familial status, including the sexual harassment of tenants.
"Sexual harassment by housing providers is especially pernicious as it makes its targets feel uncomfortable and afraid to live in the place they call home," stated John Trasviña, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "Harassment victims are not alone in the fight to protect their housing rights. HUD works vigorously to enforce their right to live free from discrimination."
According to HUD's Charge, Nieman repeatedly made unwelcome and offensive sexual comments and gestures toward two women residing at the property he managed, Park Tower Apartments, suggesting that they could exchange sex for rent, cable service, and other housing services. The Charge concludes that Nieman's actions were sufficiently severe and pervasive to unreasonably interfere with the women's tenancy and cause them emotional distress, economic loss, and other damages. The two women eventually moved from the apartment complex.
The HUD charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he or she may award damages to aggrieved persons for the damages they suffered because of the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to aggrieved persons.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate more than 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), 800-927-9275 (TTY).
HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.