Bay Area housing nightmare: When landlords sexually harass tenants
Cindy Chau seemed to have it made. She paid $1,200 a month for a rent-controlled, one bedroom apartment in San Francisco — a city where tenants typically shell out nearly three times that.
But Chau says living there came with a hidden cost not spelled out in any lease — a property manager who bombarded her with sexual text messages and persistent come-ons, once propositioning her in her own home while he was supposed to be fixing her sink.
“I just couldn’t go back to living there,” Chau said. “I didn’t feel safe.”
While the #MeToo movement has shed light on workplace sexual harassment in California’s technology sector, entertainment industry, politics and beyond, little attention is paid to the same abuses between landlords and tenants. But tenants rights lawyers say the harassment Bay Area women are reporting — from unwanted touching to offers of free rent in exchange for sex — is particularly chilling because it comes from someone with keys to their victim’s home, and the power to take that home away. And with local rent prices soaring, many women can’t put an end to the harassment by moving out, because they can’t afford to live anywhere else.
“It’s a huge problem everywhere,” said Oakland-based attorney Leslie Levy, who represents plaintiffs in sexual harassment cases, “particularly striking low-income tenants, women who are on Section 8 housing, immigrant women — because they are the most vulnerable, and they can’t just up and move.”
Experts say it’s difficult to tell how widespread landlord/tenant sexual harassment is, as tenants often don’t report it and research on the subject is lacking. But it’s a problem that’s caught the attention of the nation’s highest civil rights enforcers — in October the Department of Justice launched a pilot …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Business