DOJ and HUD Join Forces to Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing

By Scott Drucker, Esq., Arizona REALTORS® General Counsel

Announced on the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in conjunction with the Department of Justice (DOJ), debuted an initiative intended to promote public awareness and increase the reporting of sexual harassment in housing.

The initiative aims to protect individuals from harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, security guards and other employees and representatives of rental property owners.

In announcing the interagency initiative, Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed that, “Sexual harassment in housing is illegal, immoral and unacceptable.” Sessions went on to say, “It is all too common today, as too many landlords, managers and their employees attempt to prey on vulnerable women. We will not hesitate to pursue these predators and enforce the law.”

Although HUD Secretary Ben Carson recently proposed that his department’s mission statement be revised to remove references to fighting discrimination, Carson echoed Sessions’ remarks stating, “No person should have to tolerate unwanted sexual advances in order to keep a roof over his or her head.”

To further its objectives, the initiative includes an outreach toolkit, a public awareness campaign and a joint task force between the two departments. The toolkit itself provides templates, checklists and guidance on enforcement resources available to help victims of sexual harassment.

The public awareness campaign consists primarily of the launch of a social media campaign and public service announcements run by the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys. According to the DOJ, “The campaign is specifically designed to raise awareness, and make it easier for victims all over the country to find resources and report harassment.”

Finally, the HUD-DOJ Task Force to Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing seeks to share data and analysis between departments, create joint training, evaluate processes to file a public housing complaint, coordinate public relations and jointly review federal policies.

More information about the Civil Rights Division and the civil rights laws it enforces is available here.

Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of sexual harassment in housing should call the DOJ at 1-844-380-6178, click fairhousing@usdoj.gov to send an email, or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.

If you have information or questions about any other housing discrimination, call the Fair Housing Hotline at 1-800-896-7743.

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