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  • Don’t Touch Your Tenants: Landlord Ordered to Pay $855K

    Cincinnati landlord Henry E. Bailey is learning the hard way that you cannot exact sexual favors from your tenants for reduced rent. Fourteen women came forward with complaints dating back to March of 1991, and alleged incidents of misconduct that continued up until January of 2011.

    Bailey admitted to entering apartments without permission or notice, touching the women, and making unwarranted sexual comments. He also granted housing, gave reduced rents or made repairs in return for sexual favors. And when a tenant rebuffed his sexual advances, he would take action against them; including eviction.

    Now Bailey has to pay $800,000 in damages to the women and $55,000 in civil penalties to the U.S. for violating the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, pursuant to a consent judgment approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

    Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division noted the severity of the conduct in a recent U.S. Department of Justice news release, stating how the women were subject to severe and intimidating acts of unwanted sexual conduct. Perez believes that the judgment in this case “reflects the gravity of the alleged conduct.” In other words, Perez was justifiably abhorred by Bailey’s conduct and approved of the resultant sanctions.

    While Bailey engaged in a pattern of discriminatory harassment conduct spanning twenty years, singular acts can also violate the law.

    The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits discriminatory actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap. This means that a landlord cannot set different rental terms, conditions or privileges, nor make housing unavailable, based on a person’s sex, as Bailey did. A sexual harassment lawyer in California can help you assess your rights.

    Bailey’s conduct also subjected him to additional conditions, per the consent judgment. Obviously, he is prohibited from further acts of discrimination, since such conduct is patently illegal, but he must also hire the services of an independently owned management company to run his future and current rental properties. Additionally, the hired management company must put into place anti-sexual harassment policies and procedures for handling sexual harassment complaints.

    In this case, the Justice Department became involved after a local fair-housing advocacy group relayed complaints about Bailey. But state laws can also prohibit discrimination based on sex. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits conduct similar to Bailey’s. Additionally, California state law is broader than the federal law; FEHA makes it illegal to discriminate against a person based on sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.

    If you or someone you know is being subject to unwanted sexual attention or discrimination by a landlord, consult a sexual harassment lawyer in California for assistance.