The US unemployment rate is continuing to rise and some landlords are being reported for taking advantage of their tenants during these tough times it is sickening to find that so far The Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women has received 10 reports about nine landlords during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Khara Jabola-Carolus, the office’s executive director.
They have seen more cases of landlords sexually harassing their tenants over two weeks than the past two years, Khara told NBC News.
She added: “Landlord coercion has always been a reality, but we’ve never seen anything like this.
“The coronavirus creates the perfect conditions for landlords who want to do this because not only are people being instructed to stay home, but the virus has added to the economic stress with people losing their jobs, especially in Hawaii, which is driven by tourism.”
There are currently over 22 million people unemployed and over 680,000 people in the Us have been infected with COVID19.
As with other countries across the world, the US is in a state of lockdown and strict self-isolation guidelines as businesses that were deemed non-essential were forced to shut down.
Renee Williams, a senior staff attorney at the National Housing Law Project, predicts an influx in sexual harassment reports over the next few months, NBC News reported.
Rene told the news outlet: “Landlords have all the leverage in the landlord-tenant relationship and these types of situations, they especially prey on women who are vulnerable, who are forced to live in insecure housing, have bad credit or who don’t have anywhere to go.
“We’ve already seen that the pandemic is exacerbating a lot of systemic issues and sexual harassment targeted at tenants by landlords is likely to be one of these issues.”
A guide on “What to do if your landlord pressures sex for rent during COVID-19” has since been created by Khara to help anyone in need.
She explained it’s “illegal and discriminatory” for landlords to prey on people’s economic troubles during the pandemic – or any other times, “whether d*** pics, touching, date requests, or “other arrangements.”
The federal Fair Housing Act and state landlord-tenant code consider the harassment a violation.
The Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Act of 2015 states it could even be argued as sex trafficking.
Khara directs victims to file complaints online with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (HUD FHEO).
The FHEO can be also contacted by calling 1-800-669-9777.
Sheryl Ring, the legal director of legal aid and fair housing agency near Chicago, told Buzzfeed News that landlords who sexually harass tenants are often serial offenders.
They are “taking advantage of the situation to engage in misconduct they are generally already being investigated or caught for,” Ring said.
According to The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), 84 percent of apartment households made a full or partial rent payment by April 12, however, those numbers aren’t expected to rise.
“Unfortunately, unemployment levels are continuing to rise and delays have been reported in getting assistance to residents, which could affect May’s rent levels,” NMHC president Doug Bibby said in a statement.