Prosecutors Issue Warning to Landlords

Barbara Schwarz
May 30, 2020 - 10:46 am

    DALLAS (KRLD) - The US Attorney's office in the Western District of Texas says it is redoubling its effort to combat sexual harassment in housing during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

    US Attorney for the Western District, John Bash says this has been a Department of Justice priority since 2017. 

    He says the concern is that "either landlords or even maintenance people could sexually harass tenants.  All sexual harassment is bad but it's really bad when you can't even go home at night without facing sexual harassment.  From a landlord's perspective, the concern is that somebody falls back on their rent or wants something fixed and they have to put up with this."

    He says the problem may be exacerbated by the pandemic, with so many out of work, people will fall behind on rent.  He says there are concerns landlords "will demand sexual favors or otherwise engage in harassment, so people can stay in their homes.  That's not only illegal, a violation of fundamental decency."

    He says they have had a lot of litigation over the last three years and millions of dollars in settlements in the past three years. "During the pandemic, and this is similar to domestic violence and child abuse cases, we've seen reporting go down. I think part of that is because people are concerned about being kicked out of their homes if they complain about mistreatment, given what's going on with the economy and the pandemic."

    He says while landlords need their income "in the time of crisis you would hope that landlords exercise some degree of judgment and compassion if they can financially, and know that people are in a crisis right now and need to figure out a way to work things out until we can get through this."

    People who have been victimized are encouraged to call 844-380-6178.  You can also email fairhousing@usdoj.gov