As students prepare to leave home for college, the U. S. Attorney’s Office wants to raise awareness among students that may be living on their own in off-campus housing for the first time about their rights and protections under the federal Fair Housing Act—in particular, the prohibition against sexual harassment in housing.
Sexual harassment in housing is sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. It 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 home. If a landlord, rental manager, maintenance worker, or anyone else with control over housing engages in any of these types of behaviors with a tenant or prospective tenant, this may be unlawful sexual harassment:
- Commenting on tenant’s body or looks
- Sending sexually suggestive text messages to victim
- Lurking or spying on tenant
- Exposing self to tenant, showing tenant pornography, talking about sex with tenant
- Entering tenant’s home unannounced, without notice or legitimate reason for doing so
- Touching tenant without consent
- Conditioning certain housing benefits – for example, renting to, making repairs, excusing a late rent payment – on receipt of sexual favors, including engaging in sexual acts, taking pictures of tenant, etc.
- Threatening to evict tenant if they do not engage in sexual acts or favors
The U.S. Attorney’s Office will be sending correspondence to local universities enclosing information on the Fair Housing Act and materials about sexual harassment in housing that can be shared with students living in off-campus housing.
In 2018, the Department of Justice began the Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative as an effort to combat sexual harassment in 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. Individuals who believe they have been a victim of housing discrimination can call the U. S. Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Hotline at 313.226.9151 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.