As the pandemic and its impact on our day to day lives continues, it is important to be aware of some of the issues arising as result, especially in our housing.
Fair housing is the right to choose housing free from unlawful discrimination. The federal Fair Housing Act (FHAct) and Michigan laws protect people from discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), national origin, familial status, disability, marital status and age. Discrimination is illegal in housing transactions such as rentals, sales, lending and insurance.
Fair housing advocates have started to see increasing numbers of allegations of sexual harassment and unfortunately expect this trend to continue. Sexual harassment in housing is a form of sex discrimination and is illegal under the FHAct. There are two types of sexual harassment in housing:
1. Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment.
2. Hostile Environment sexual harassment.
Quid Pro Quo harassment occurs when a housing provider or their employee requires a person to submit to an unwelcome request to engage in sexual conduct as a condition of obtaining, maintaining or using housing or housing-related services. "Quid Pro Quo" can be understood as "this for that" or "a favor for a favor." Examples include:
- A landlord demands nude photos in return for approving a rental application.
- A property manager evicts a person because they refuse to have sex.
- A maintenance staff member requests sexual favors in return for making needed repairs.
A Hostile Environment occurs when a housing provider or their employee subjects a person to severe or pervasive unwelcome sexual conduct as part of the sale, rental, availability, terms/conditions, or privileges of housing or housing-related services and results in an environment that is intimidating, hostile, offensive or otherwise significantly less desirable. Examples include:
- A landlord subjects a tenant to pervasive unwelcome touching, kissing or groping without consent.
- A property manager makes persistent unwelcome and lewd comments about a tenant's body.
- A maintenance staff member sends a tenant unwelcome, sexually suggestive texts and enters the tenant's apartment without invitation or permission.
In addition to sexual harassment allegations, other trends include selective treatment based on any of the aforementioned protected classes, including harassment for payment, threat of eviction and nonrenewal of leases; hate-related harassment of Asian-Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders; and delay or denial of reasonable modifications (ramps/grab bars) or reasonable accommodations (assistance animals/assigned parking space) for people with disabilities, including allowing access for caregivers as needed.
If you or anyone you know has faced housing discrimination or sexual harassment in housing, please contact the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan at 616.451.2980 or [email protected]. There is no cost for our services and you can report discrimination anonymously.
Written by Brianna Miranda, Education and Outreach Coordinator, Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.
Courtesy of Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.
Photos courtesy of Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.