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Know Your Rights: sexual harassment in housing

Posted September 2, 2022
12:10 pm

By Nicholas Elrad

Did you know the law provides tenants with the right to be free from discrimination? Tenants are protected from sex discrimination and sexual harassment by their housing provider. If you believe you have experienced sexual harassment from a housing provider, you are not alone and you have rights!

Sexual Harassment in Housing: What is it? Who Causes It? Who experiences it?
Unfortunately, sexual harassment happens regularly in the housing market to people looking for housing. Sexual harassment from a housing provider might include:

  1. Sexual advances such as making inappropriate comments or touching you without consent;
  2. Violating your personal space, privacy, or sense of safety by: spying on you, exposing themselves to you, showing you sexually explicit images, or entering your home without any notice or legitimate reason;
  3. Demanding sexual activity from you in return for providing housing services, such as making needed repairs, accepting your rent, or reviewing your rental application;
  4. Offering you a benefit in return for performing sexual favors, such as reducing your rent or waiving a late-payment fee.

Sexual harassment can occur at any stage in the rental process; whether you’re already a tenant or if you’re just applying for a rental unit or housing benefits. You may also experience sexual harassment from several different people who provide you housing services, such as your landlord, your property manager, housing authority employees, maintenance workers, or security guards.

What Can You Do if You experienced Sexual Harassment in Housing?
If you have experienced sexual harassment by a housing provider, your right to fair housing may have been violated. You have several options. You can enforce your rights and seek protection even if you “went along with” the harassment, are behind on rent, or have had prior rental or criminal problems.

Local organizations such as the Fair Housing Center for Rights and Research can assist you in enforcing your rights, seeking protection, and reporting your discrimination or harassment. To report your experience of harassment to the Fair Housing Center, call their office at 216.361.9240 or visit their website.

You may also report your harassment directly to the federal government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development or the Department of Justice. These agencies share responsibility for enforcing your right to fair housing and accept complaints in the following ways:

By Phone:
Contact HUD at 1.800.669.9777 or 1.800.877.8339

Contact DOJ at 1.844.380.6178 or 202.514.0716

Online, by email, or mail:
For information on more ways you can file a sexual harassment complaint with HUD, visit the HUD website.

The Department of Justice also allows you to file complaints using their website.

Additionally, you may report your harassment to Ohio’s state government through the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. This commission is authorized to investigate claims of housing discrimination and refer cases to the Attorney General for prosecution. For more information on reporting your experience of harassment to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, visit their website.

Finally, you may bring your own lawsuit against your housing provider.

What Will Happen If I report my Sexual Harassment?
When you report your experiences of sexual harassment, an investigation may be opened into your claims. Possible resolutions might include a transfer to new housing, or an order requiring your landlord to either stop harassing you or to take steps to prevent future harassment by other people. In some cases, a tenant may receive an award of money damages for enduring harm caused by sexual harassment.

It is important to know that it is illegal for your landlord to retaliate against you for reporting your experiences of sexual harassment. Evidence of retaliation may lead to additional consequences for your landlord.

This article was published in Legal Aid's newsletter, "The Alert" Volume 38, Issue 2, in Summer 2022. See full issue at this link: “The Alert” – Volume 38, Issue 2 – Legal Aid Society of Cleveland (  

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