(NEW YORK POST) – Some disgusting US landlords are taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis by trying to coerce their cash-strapped tenants into “sex-for-rent” agreements, according to a disturbing new report.
In Hawaii, the state’s Commission on the Status of Women has seen 10 complaints of sexual harassment by landlords since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, BuzzFeed News reported.
“We’ve received more cases at our office in the last two days than we have in the last two years,” Khara Jabola-Carolus, the executive director of the commission, told the outlet last week.
In the Chicago area, Sheryl Ring, the legal director at Open Communities, a legal aid and fair housing agency, said that her organization has seen a threefold increase in housing-related sexual harassment complaints over the past month.
“We have seen an uptick in sexual harassment,” Ring told the outlet. “Since this started, [landlords] have been taking advantage of the financial hardships many of their tenants have in order to coerce their tenants into a sex-for-rent agreement — which is absolutely illegal.”
“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,” she added.
While landlords sexually harassing tenants is not a new issue, some tenants’ financial hardships — and in many cases, unemployment — during the coronavirus crisis have made them even more vulnerable.
“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,” Jabola-Carolus told the outlet.
Landlords who sexually harass tenants are often serial offenders who are “taking advantage of the situation to engage in misconduct they are generally already being investigated or caught for,” Ring explained.
Ring urged anyone sexually harassed by a landlord not to give into their demands, but to contact their local legal aid or tenants’ rights organization.
“It’s important to know what your rights are as quickly as possible,” she told the outlet. “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.”