Finding housing can be stressful, especially if money’s tight, you’re on your own, and you don’t have a lot of options. And when someone who can grant you a place to live sexually harasses you, it can leave you feeling unsafe and humiliated.
According to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative, sexual harassment in housing happens when a landlord, rental manager, maintenance worker, loan officer–anyone with control over your housing situation:
Demands sexual acts or sex to let you rent, continue renting, or buy a home, or
Subjects you to other unwanted sexual conduct that makes it hard to keep living in or feeling comfortable in your home
Sexual harassment can take the form of comments about your body, sexual talk or photos, exposure, touching you without your consent, and more. Harassers may promise repairs, a lower rent or mortgage rate, or to prevent your eviction if you agree to their sexual demands. They use their power to exploit your vulnerability.
But you are not alone. It happens all over the country, and chances are, the person who harassed you may have harassed others too. Sexual harassment in housing is illegal. And fair housing is your right.
Did you know there’s something you can do about it? Report the harassment by calling DOJ’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative at 1-844-380-6178 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can give as much detail as you feel comfortable sharing. And if you include contact information, they can follow up.
Depending on your situation, DOJ may
Encourage you to file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Investigate your harasser
Let your harasser know that threatening or evicting people because they reported harassment is illegal
Take action in court against the harasser
DOJ works with other government agencies including HUD, law enforcement, and state and local governments to help victims of sexual harassment. And DOJ’s Civil Rights Division works with U.S. attorneys’ offices around the country to investigate and bring lawsuits about sexual harassment in housing.
Even if the sexual harassment happened many years ago, even if you said “yes” to your harasser, or even if you have a criminal record, DOJ may be able to help. Find more government services for your family at USA.gov. Learn about programs to help you locate affordable rental housing, find free or low-cost legal aid, and get help with your bills.