J. Courtney Cunningham Oct. 27, 2021

Now that the COVID-19 eviction moratorium has been lifted, many families find themselves behind on rent. This can make male or female tenants, vulnerable to sexual harassment. The is illegal under federal law and it is likely illegal under many state and local laws. You don’t have to take it. Below, you will find advice from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) about what you should do if you encounter sexual harassment in regard to housing.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment in housing is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. Sex discrimination is also prohibited by other federal laws, such as Section 109 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 and Title IX of Education Amendments of 1972. There are two main types of sexual harassment: (1) quid pro quo sexual harassment; and (2) hostile environment sexual harassment.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a housing provider requires a person to submit to an unwelcome request to engage in sexual conduct as a condition of obtaining or maintaining housing or housing-related services. For example:

  • A landlord tells an applicant he won’t rent her an apartment unless she has sex with him.

  • A property manager evicts a tenant after she refuses to perform sexual acts.

  • A maintenance man refuses to make repairs unless a tenant gives him nude photos of herself.

Hostile Environment

Hostile environment harassment occurs when a housing provider subjects a person to severe or pervasive unwelcome sexual conduct that interferes with the sale, rental, availability, or terms, conditions, or privileges of housing or housing-related services, including financing. For example:

  • A landlord subjects a tenant to severe or pervasive unwelcome touching, kissing, or groping.

  • A property manager makes severe or pervasive unwelcome, lewd comments about a tenant’s body.

  • A maintenance man sends a tenant severe or pervasive unwelcome, sexually suggestive texts and enters her apartment without invitation or permission.

What Can I Do If I Am Being Sexually Harassed in My Housing Environment?

If you are being sexually harassed, you can file a complaint with HUD. If you would be safe doing so, you can tell the harasser to stop. You can also make a complaint to your housing provider, if different from the harasser.

When you file your complaint with HUD, you should tell them the name of the person harassing you, when and where it happened, and the names of any witnesses or other individuals who have been or are being harassed.

If you believe you are being subjected to sexual harassment, you can also call an experienced Fair Housing attorney who can help you put a stop to sexual harassment. You don’t have to take it. You can get injunctive relief (an order from the court requiring that the sexual harassment stop); compensatory damages (money from your economic losses or pain and suffering); and/or punitive damages (money to punish the harasser for the housing discrimination). Consult an experienced housing discrimination attorney to work on your behalf.