Brooklyn Boro

Sex for rent? U.S. Attorney for Brooklyn asks tenants to report their landlords

May 20, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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More than 30 million Americans, including nearly 2 million New Yorkers, according to the state Labor Department, have lost their jobs within the last two months, and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District is concerned that it has caused too many people to become desperate.

U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue’s Office sent a letter to housing advocacy groups and other community organizations this week where he asked for their help in finding people who have witnessed or experienced sexual harassment by a landlord, property manager or even maintenance workers who have control over housing.

He said he sent the letter after reports surfaced of landlords who have responded to rent deferment requests with demands for sexual favors.

“Tenants who find themselves unemployed and in dire financial straits due to the COVID-19 crisis are protected from discrimination under the Fair Housing Act,” U.S. Attorney Donoghue said.

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“No tenant should ever be expected to provide sexual favors in order to keep a roof over their head. We will use all available enforcement tools to protect tenants from such unscrupulous and predatory conduct,” he said.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color religion, sex, familiar status, national origin or disability. Sexual harassment is covered as a form of sex discrimination under the law.

Donoghue explained that his office is working with the U.S. Attorney General’s Office and attorneys general from across the country to investigate reports of housing related sexual harassment as part of a Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative that began in 2017.

Anyone in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island or Long Island who has experienced harassment should reach out to his office.

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