The federal Honest Housing Act protects tenants from sexual discrimination by landlords, together with potential landlords. Many states even have particular housing legal guidelines banning sexual harassment or discrimination.
Landlords sexually harassing tenants is just not a brand new scenario, however giant swaths of the group now being unemployed or in monetary misery has made much more individuals susceptible.
“Of course that’s not the root cause of why it’s happening, but it makes it easier because now [landlords] have access to people at their fingertips,” mentioned Jabola-Carolus.
Usually landlords who sexually harass tenants are serial offenders who’re “taking advantage of the situation to engage in misconduct they are generally already being investigated or caught for,” mentioned Ring.
She was already engaged on six sexual harassment housing instances earlier than the COVID-19 epidemic started. However the enormous variety of individuals being unable to afford this month’s lease has dramatically elevated the chance of it occurring.
“We’ve heard some landlords are attempting to use the situation where a tenant falls behind to pressure a tenant into exchanging sex for rent,” mentioned Ring.
And with stay-at-home orders being issued throughout the nation, and an enormous public well being disaster unfolding, the necessity for secure housing is extra necessary than ever — one thing that can be utilized by landlords to their benefit.
“The power dynamic goes without saying,” mentioned Jabola-Carolus. “All of us feel intimidated by our landlords because shelter is so critical.”
Specifically, girls of coloration and trans girls are sometimes the probably to be focused for sexual harassment by landlords, mentioned Ring.
Jabola-Carolus identified that in Hawaii the now-collapsed tourism trade has created a very risky scenario for its many Latino, immigrant, and Native Hawaiian girls employees.
“The conditions are ripe for sexual exploitation,” mentioned Jabola-Carolus.
The complaints to Jabola-Carolus’s fee had been first reported by native station KITV.
Ring mentioned people who find themselves being sexually harassed ought to attempt their greatest to not give in to a landlord’s calls for or compromise with them.
“You can’t really negotiate how much illegality the landlord is willing to do,” mentioned Ring.
As an alternative, she mentioned that any particular person being sexually harassed by their landlord ought to contact their native authorized help or tenant’s rights group and get rapid authorized assist.
“It’s important to know what your rights are as quickly as possible,” mentioned Ring. “Even now, just because courts are closed to most things, it doesn’t mean you do not have recourse right now and can’t be protected.”
Additionally it is unlawful in each state for a landlord to vary the locks as a result of a tenant didn’t adjust to their harassment.
“The law is definitely on your side,” mentioned Jabola-Carolus, who wrote an online guide for the way girls in Hawaii can reply to harassment from landlords. “There is recourse, and there is recourse against retaliation.”