DOJ Sues Section 8 Owner for Sexually Harassing Tenants
The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that it has filed a lawsuit alleging that the owner of rental properties in Elizabeth, N.J., violated the Fair Housing Act by subjecting tenants to sexual harassment. The complaint alleges that the owner, who owns hundreds of rental units in and around Elizabeth, has subjected tenants and applicants to sexual harassment on multiple occasions since at least 2005.
According to the complaint, the owner demanded sexual favors to get or keep housing, offered housing benefits like reduced rent in exchange for sexual favors, touched tenants and applicants in a way that was sexual and unwelcome, and made unwelcome sexual comments and advances to tenants and applicants.
The complaint also claims that the owner initiated or threatened to initiate eviction actions against tenants who objected to or refused his sexual advances. According to the complaint, he participates in the federal Housing Choice Voucher program and receives approximately $102,000 each month in Housing Choice Voucher payments. The lawsuit is the result of a joint investigative effort with the HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office and HUD’s Office of Inspector General.
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is an effort to combat sexual harassment in housing led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. The Attorney General recently reaffirmed this commitment by directing the Justice Department to deploy all available enforcement tools against anyone who tries to capitalize on the COVID-19 crisis by sexually harassing people in need of housing.
The goal of the initiative is to address sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers, or other people who have control over housing. As part of the initiative, the Justice Department developed a public service announcement and formed a joint task force with HUD to combat sexual harassment in housing. Since launching the Initiative in October 2017, the Department of Justice has filed 17 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing.