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Press Release

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

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Nebraska

U.S Attorney Joe Kelly announces a concerted effort to investigate and prosecute those who engage in predatory behavior in regard to housing-related sexual harassment. Such behavior is illegal under the Fair Housing Act.

As this country adopts drastic measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, many Americans have lost their jobs and many more have seen their wages reduced. These losses have forced many to seek delays 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.

The majority of landlords have responded to these circumstances with understanding and care, trying to work with their tenants to survive 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 reprehensible. Unfortunately, many 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. 

Joe Kelly stated, “These predatory practices related to COVID-19 are particularly disturbing as these landlords exploit this national crisis by sexually harassing people in need of housing.  We will not hesitate to intervene when this occurs. This is not tolerated in normal times, and certainly will not be tolerated now.”

We encourage anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in housing to contact the DOJ Sexual Harassment in Housing Hotline at (844) 380-6178, or by email to,  Complaints can be mailed directly to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, 1620 Dodge Street Suite 1400, Omaha, NE 68102, Attn Laurie Kelly, Civil Rights Coordinator.

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

DOJ PSA: Sexual Harassment in Housing Is Illegal

Working with DOJ to Stop Sexual Harassment in Housing

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 aggressively address their despicable behavior.

Updated May 6, 2020

Civil Rights