United States Attorney Raising Student Awareness Of Sexual Harassment In Housing
(STL.News) As students prepare to leave home for college, the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District Michigan 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
Beginning July 26, 2021, 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. Employees from the U.S. Attorney’s Office will also be posting flyers on local college campuses providing information for victims of sexual harassment to help to shine a spotlight on behavior that often goes unreported.
“Sexual harassment in housing is illegal and unacceptable,” stated Saima S. Mohsin, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. “Students, like all Americans, have the right to feel safe and secure in their homes, free from unwanted sexual harassment. Our office will work aggressively to punish anyone who uses their authority over someone’s housing to sexually harass them.”
Fighting illegal discrimination in housing is a top priority of the Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. 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.