You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Michigan

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

United States Attorney Cautions Against Predatory Practices Related to COVID-19 and Housing

DETROIT, Michigan - As the country adopts drastic measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, many Americans have lost their jobs and many more have seen their wages curtailed. These losses have forced many to seek abatements or suspensions of their rent, with reports that nearly one third of Americans were unable to pay their April rent at the beginning of the month.

Many landlords have responded to these circumstances with understanding and care, trying to work with their tenants to weather the current crisis. However, there have been reports of other landlords who have responded to requests to defer rent payments with demands for sexual favors and other acts of unwelcome sexual conduct. Such behavior is despicable and it is illegal.

Unfortunately, most victims who experience this type of abuse never report it.  They fear retaliation will endanger their ability to provide shelter for themselves and their families.  

United States Attorney Mathew Schneider stated, “Predatory practices related to COVID-19 are particularly disturbing as these landlords exploit our current national crisis by sexually harassing people in need of housing.”

The Department of Justice has not hesitated to intervene when clear misconduct occurs. This behavior is not tolerated in normal times, and certainly will not be tolerated now. 

To report sexual harassment in housing, contact the Justice Department at (800) 896-7743 or  Or, contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office at (313) 226-9151 or

Below are two links to DOJ & HUD produced PSAs for your consideration. These powerful PSAs feature personal victim impact stories and a clear call to action.

DOJ PSA: Sexual Harassment in Housing Is Illegal

runtime: 1:00

Working with DOJ to Stop Sexual Harassment in Housing

runtime: 11:00

Fifty-two years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, we have come a long way.  But we still have work to do.  Securing fair housing as part of the American way of life can be achieved when victims know it is safe to come forward, and perpetrators know we will be aggressively attacking their despicable conduct.  

Civil Rights
Updated April 29, 2020