|HUD No. 14-126
October 8, 2014
WEST VIRGINIA AND TENNESSEE LANDLORDS CHARGED WITH SEXUAL HARASSMENT AFTER FEMALE RENTERS COERCED TO COMPLY OR LOSE HOME
Public housing residents assaulted, threatened, exposed to nudity, explicit photos, texts and more
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it has charged housing providers in West Virginia and Tennessee with sexually harassing female tenants and threatening them with homelessness if they did not comply.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for a housing manager or owner to sexually harass a tenant. This includes conditioning housing on the tenant's acquiescence to sexual demands.
"Our charges allege that these housing managers used their authority to exploit women whose families were one step away from homelessness" said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, "These violent acts are compounded because they took place at home, leaving these mothers with no safe place to go. I will use all the power of my office to address these violations and protect women from harassment."
In the West Virginia case, HUD charged a management company and three former employees that managed an apartment complex in Cross Lanes with allegedly sexually harassing at least five women who lived there. The property receives Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and accepts HUD Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8.)
HUD's charge alleges that the manager of the property threatened to evict two women if they didn't comply with his sexual demands. In one instance, the manager used his keys to break into her apartment and demand that she have sex with him or lose her home and her Section 8 voucher. With her children sleeping in the apartment, the woman felt she could not refuse. In another case, a second tenant allegedly complied with the manager's sexual demand after he threatened, falsely, to take her Section 8 voucher and to make her and her children homeless if she didn't agree to his demands. HUD's charge also alleges that the employee made unwelcome sexual advances toward and sent sexually explicit and unwelcome text messages and graphic pictures to female tenants.
HUD's charge further alleges that an employee sexually harassed female tenants during maintenance visits, including exposing himself and making sexually explicit comments. A site manager at the property who was married to the maintenance employee allegedly failed to report the sexual harassment complaints she received from female tenants.
In a separate case in west Tennessee, HUD charged the manager of a mobile home rental property with sexually harassing a woman who was renting the home.
In her complaint to HUD, the single mother alleged that the manager made repeated requests to take sexually suggestive photographs of her and propositioned her for sex. After numerous requests for photographs, the manager allegedly told the woman that he would forgive a month's rent if she allowed him to take nude photographs of her. When she refused, the manager allegedly texted her that she would receive a 30-day notice to vacate and that she was to "get the hell out." In response to the manager's actions and because she feared for her and her children's safety in her own home, the woman moved out a few weeks later.
A United States Administrative Law Judge will hear the charges unless any party to the charges elects to have the case heard in federal district court.
Persons who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed at www.hud.gov/fairhousing or by downloading HUD's free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
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