Sexual Harassment in Housing

Despite increased attention and awareness in recent years, sexual harassment remains a very real problem. It can occur in various contexts, including but not limited to housing. It often affects those of modest means in a particularly insidious way, as the harasser may and often will exploit their target’s economic vulnerability.

Various laws, including but not limited to the federal Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq.), and the New York City Human Rights Law (N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(5)(a)), prohibit discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment.

Generally, there are two types of sexual harassment: (1) “quid pro quo” sexual harassment; and (2) “hostile environment” sexual harassment.

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 worker refuses to make repairs unless a tenant gives him nude photos of themselves.

Hostile environment harassment, on the other hand, 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 worker sends a tenant severe or pervasive unwelcome, sexually suggestive texts and enters her apartment without invitation or permission;

If you believe that you have been subjected to sexual harassment in housing, contact us today at (212) 227-2100 to discuss your rights. The first phone call is always free.

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