Fair Housing vs. Unfair Housing

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

For Property Manager, DOJ Claims Tenants Were There for the Touching

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Yesterday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a complaint against a man who managed several mobile homes in the West Memphis, Arkansas area, alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act's ban on sex-based discrimination. If the allegations in the complaint are true, then it's clear this is a man who used his position to take advantage of tenants and prospective tenants repeatedly, interfering with their housing and their dignity while thinking nothing of invading their privacy and their person.

The complaint describes the property manager's acts of sexual harassment in strong terms, labeling it as "severe, pervasive, and unwelcome." The man, whose name ironically is "Hurt," is accused of doing the following and more on a regular basis:
  • entering female tenants' homes without notice or consent
  • touching female tenants in an unwelcome sexual manner
  • making verbal sexual advances
  • taking steps to evict female tenants who refuse his sexual advances
The DOJ is also after the property manager's wife, who owned or co-owned the mobile homes with him and, the DOJ argues, "knew or should have known" about the sexual harassment but "failed to take reasonable preventive or corrective measures."

Should sexual harassment be treated with harsher penalties than other forms of housing discrimination? If a landlord, property manager, or other housing professional is found to have engaged in severe, repeated sexual harassment, should he or she be barred from managing residential properties going forward?

What do you think?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You ask if the penalties should be as severe for sexual harassment as for other forms of discrimination. Without the perspective of knowing what other penalties are, I can't address that. However, I can address the problem of sexual harassment and its repercussions. A friend of mine is recently single. Her landlord has been practically salivating since her breakup. He calls her on the phone and wants to know when she will be alone. (She makes a point to NEVER be alone if she can help it.) He has invited her to take trips with me and yesterday he asked her to be his mistress. She vomited for hours. She is looking for another place to rent just to get away from him. She is already being treated for problems related to anxiety; this harassment is making her ill. She doesn't want to antagonize him--she says he is very big and she's frightened of him, in addition to the fact that a hostile relationship with a landlord is never good. The emotional distress is huge and her family and friends are rallying round, trying to support her, protect her, and help her find another place!! How can the government penalize such behavior, except through a civil action for damages? I'm impressed with the size of the award in the instance of the Cincinnati landlord charged with sexual harassment. Ohio courts are notoriously stingy.

Anonymous said...

The wife of the landlord should be treated as another victim, not as a co-conspirator. She is being violated by his actions as well and obviously has no control over what he does. I'm curious what actions they think she could have taken to prevent or stop it. Also, it is reasonable to assume that he would have made some effort to hide this behavior from his wife.

Normandy said...

My opinion would be that penalties for any form of sexual harassment in regards to housing should be as severe if not more severe than other forms of discrimination. Not to make light of other forms of discrimination, but sexual harassment can not cause physical and emotional damage on a continuing basis. Not to mention the fear that a victim must continually endure in this order situation. I actually grew up just minutes from this town and it is embarrassing and painful to see such things in the news about the area where I grew up. The sad fact is is that this is not an affluent area and it is one that is continually plagued by crime. So much so, that likely this sort of thing happens more often than is known probably because of a lack of resources to enforce this sort of behavior.