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Sexual Harassment in Housing

The Fair Housing Act and other federal laws prohibit sexual harassment in housing. 

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on sex as well as other characteristics such as race, color, religion, national origin, familial status, or disability. There are two main types of sexual harassment: (1) quid pro quo sexual harassment and (2) hostile environment sexual harassment. 

Quid Pro Quo - "Favor for a Favor" 

When a housing provider asks a tenant to engage in sexual conduct in exchange for maintaining housing or other housing-related services.

Examples include:​

  • A landlord tells an applicant he won’t rent them an apartment unless they have sex with him.

  • A property manager evicts a tenant after he refuses to perform sexual acts.

  • A maintenance worker refuses to make repairs unless a tenant gives him nude photos of herself.

Hostile Environment

When a housing provider subjects a person to severe or pervasive unwelcome sexual conduct in a way that interferes with their access to housing (e.g., sale, rental, availability, or terms, conditions, or privileges of housing or housing-related services, including financing).

Examples include:​

  • A landlord subjects a tenant to unwelcome touching, kissing, or groping.

  • A property manager makes unwelcome, lewd comments about a tenant’s body.

  • A maintenance man sends a tenant unwelcome, sexually suggestive texts and enters their apartment without invitation or permission.​

Landlord Liability 

Landlords & property owners are responsible for the actions of their employees, including maintenance workers, managers, agents, contractors etc.

Harassment Between Tenants

Landlords can be held liable in court if they knew of tenant-on-tenant harassment and did not take action.

Harassment is Gender Non-Specific 

A person of any gender can harass another person of any or the same gender.

Reporting Sexual Harassment

  • Victims have one year to file a complaint with a fair housing agency, like HUD, California DFEH, or the Housing Rights Center, which can investigate the complaint at no cost to the tenant.

  • Victims have two years to file a private legal action.

Want to learn more about the rights of tenants facing sexual harassment?


 This material is based on work supported by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under FEOI 20041. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of HUD.

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