Federal Prosecutor Warns Landlords Against Sex Harassment

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO)— Chicago’s top federal prosecutor is warning landlords against trying to pressure tenants for sexual favors if they fall behind in their rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such an offense would qualify as sexual harassment under federal housing law, says U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. 

“Sexual harassment in housing is illegal and despicable,” Lausch said Wednesday in a prepared statement.  “No one should have to tolerate this behavior under normal circumstances, and particularly not during a public health crisis.  My office will aggressively investigate these cases and bring action when warranted.”

Lausch's office issued a news release as economic hardship intensifies during coronavirus-related lockdowns and as tenants and mortgage-holders may be seeking forbearances. 

The have been reports of landlords demanding sexual favors and other acts of unwelcome sexual conduct to defer rent payments, Lausch said.

Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of housing-related sexual harassment is encouraged to contact the Department of Justice via phone: (844) 380-6178, email: fairhousing@usdoj.gov, or mail: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Attention: Patrick Johnson, Civil Rights Coordinator, 219 S. Dearborn St., Suite 500, Chicago, Ill. 60604.