Fair Housing vs. Unfair Housing

Do you know the difference?

Knowing the difference between fair housing and unfair housing isn't as obvious as you might think. This blog aims to present a variety of important and interesting fair housing issues.

If you're an apartment professional, avoid costly mistakes by reading the stories of others who — even with good intentions — learned compliance lessons the hard way. (For the easy way, click here.)

If you live in an apartment, get familiar with your rights when it comes to housing discrimination, as well as your options for seeking justice.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fair Housing Month: April Is Also National Sexual Assault Awareness Month

On April 1, President Obama signed a proclamation making April National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time to "recommit ourselves not only to lifting the veil of secrecy and shame surrounding sexual violence, but also to raising awareness, expanding support for victims, and strengthening our response."

It's fitting that National Sexual Assault Awareness Month coincides with Fair Housing Month because sexual assault or harrassment is a form of sex discrimination, which the Fair Housing Act (FHA) bans.

For a recent example, just look at today's announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) about a complaint it filed yesterday against a New York City apartment building super and landlord.

The super allegedly sexually harrassed many female tenants at three apartment buildings over a period of years. According to the complaint, the super engaged in sex-based discrimination through his:
  • unwanted verbal sexual advances, such as repeatedly soliciting sexual favors in exchange for reduced rent;
  • unwanted sexual touching, such as grabbing;
  • unwanted sexual language, including yelling obscenities to female tenants who didn't comply with sexual demands;
  • conditioning the terms of tenancy on the granting of sexual favors;
  • attempting to enter tenants' apartments while inebriated, demanding sex;
  • granting and denying tangible housing benefits (such as mail delivery and making repairs) based on sex; and
  • taking adverse action (such as threatening eviction) against female tenants who refused or objected to his sexual advances.
The landlord was also named in the lawsuit for having allegedly been aware of the super's sexual harrassment and not having taken "any meaningful steps" to investigate his tenants' multiple complaints of sexual harrassment. The DOJ also identifies the super as a registered Level 3 (high-risk) sex offender in the complaint.

The super and the landlord must now defend themselves in court against the DOJ, which seeks monetary damages, civil penalties, punitive damages, and injunctive relief.

Return tomorrow for the twenty-third part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.

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