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New Haven – United States Attorney John H. Durham today announced that the Department of Justice is deploying all available enforcement tools against anyone who tries to capitalize on the current Covid-19 crisis by sexually harassing people in need of housing.  Individuals who have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment by a landlord, property manager, maintenance worker, or anyone with control over housing are encouraged to report that conduct to the Justice Department.

The Justice Department, through the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability.  Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the Act.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has affected the ability of many people to pay rent on time and has increased housing insecurity.  The Justice Department has received reports of housing providers trying to exploit the crisis to sexually harass tenants.  The Department, in coordination with federal, state and local law enforcement authorities, will investigate these allegations and pursue enforcement actions where appropriate. 

“Job losses created by this pandemic have forced many renters to seek abatements or suspensions of rent payments,” said U.S. Attorney Durham.  “Many landlords have responded to this circumstance with understanding and care, and are working with tenants as this crisis persists.  However, there have been reports that some landlords have responded to requests to defer rent payments with demands for sexual favors and other acts of unwelcome sexual conduct.  This behavior is not tolerated in normal times, and certainly will not be tolerated now.  I encourage all victims and witnesses to report any instances of this despicable and criminal conduct immediately.”

The Justice Department encourages anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in housing, or knows someone who has, to contact the Civil Rights Division by calling (844) 380-6178 or emailing fairhousing@usdoj.gov.

Individuals who believe they may have been victims of discrimination may also contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut by calling 203 821 3700, or emailing: USACT.Citizenscomplaint@usdoj.gov.

Individuals may also file a complaint alleging harassment or discrimination in housing with the Department of Housing and Urban Development through HUD’s website or by calling (800) 669-9777.

The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is an effort to combat sexual harassment in housing led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. 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.  Launched in 2017, the Initiative has filed lawsuits across the county alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in housing and recovered millions of dollars in damages for harassment victims. 

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