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Press Release

Department Of Justice Combats Sexual Harassment Related To Housing During COVID-19 Pandemic

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

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – The Department of Justice is dedicated to combatting sexual harassment in housing. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Department has heard reports of landlords sexually harassing tenants who are experiencing financial hardship and are unable to afford rent. This conduct is illegal and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for theWestern District of Michigan will tirelessly pursue landlords and others who abuse their authority by preying upon the vulnerable.

          "Sexual harassment in housing is often underreported, but it is an egregious violation of a person’s right to fair housing," Andrew Birge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Michigan said. "Landlords or property managers using the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to extort sexual acts, or even commit assaults, against vulnerable tenants struggling to pay rent is intolerable. Our office is dedicated to uncovering such violations where they exist and vigorously enforcing the law."

          The Department of Justice, through the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Civil Rights Division, enforces the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the Act. The Justice Department brings cases each year involving unlawful landlord conduct, including allegations that defendants have exposed themselves sexually to current or prospective tenants, requested sexual favors in exchange for reduced rents or making necessary repairs, made unrelenting and unwanted sexual advances to tenants, and evicted tenants who resisted their sexual overtures. More information about the Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is available on its webpage at

          The Department encourages anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in housing, or knows someone who has, to contact the Civil Rights Division by calling 1-(844) 380-6178 or emailing

          Individuals in West Michigan who believe they may have been victims of discrimination may also present a complaint to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan by calling (616) 808-2004 or emailing


Updated April 27, 2020