“The conditions are ripe for sexual exploitation”: Tenants say they’re receiving sexual harassment by landlords
Over 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment, making it impossible for many to stay financially afloat. As businesses shut down, the first thing on the typical mind is, “How will I pay my rent?”
Nearly a third of U.S. renters didn’t pay their rent between April 1 and April 5, according to data from the National Multifamily Housing Council. And while that’s scary enough, there’s reports that while asking their landlords for extensions, women are receiving sexually-explicit images and other forms of requests for sexual favors.
In the Chicagoland area, there have been reports that sexual harassment claims have spiked “threefold.”
“We have seen an uptick in sexual harassment,” said Sheryl Ring, the legal director at Open Communities, legal aid and fair housing agency near Chicago.
“Since this started, they [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,” Ring told Buzzfeed.
One Hawaii woman said she texted her prospective landlord about an apartment that would be more affordable and he responded with a picture of his gentiles.
Khara Jabola-Carolus the executive director of Hawaii State Commission says there have at least 10 sexual harassment complaints regarding landlords since the virus outbreak.
“We’ve received more cases at our office in the last two days than we have in the last two years,” she told Buzzfeed during an interview.
Jabola-Carolus also emphasized that this is an incredibly dangerous time for tenants since there is a shelter-in-place order and landlords have access to their tenant’s unit.
“The power dynamic goes without saying. All of us feel intimidated by our landlords because shelter is so critical,” she said. Adding, “The conditions are ripe for sexual exploitation.”
Jabola-Carolus told KITV that the law is on the tenant’s side. She even created an online guide to help those being victimized by their landlords.
Many states have done this to curb this rent issue and officials urge tenants to look up state programs and new orders that may help them defer their upcoming rent payments.
But the US isn’t the only place seeing an uptick. Mirror UK reports that a survey in Scotland found that 220,000 women nationally have been asked to exchange sex-for-rent.
For more information about how to protect yourself during cases like this please view this resource.