The Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women in the US has noticed an increase in reporting of landlords preying on tenants’ financial stress during the Coronavirus pandemic to request sexual favors in exchange for rent payment.
According to Vlad TV, the commission revealed that only 69% of American renters were able to pay rent on April 1 due to recent layoffs and furloughs.
Immigration attorney Kevin Block says instead of asking for rent, some landlords are asking for ‘other arrangements’ and even sending graphic sexual images when female tenants ask about rent.
“I am concerned because reported incidents indicate a greater number of unreported incidents,” Block said.
Khara Jabola-Carolus, the Executive Director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women also confirmed the sexual harassment by landlords saying: “There was no plan upfront to prepare for the physical and sexual violence from the combination of shelter-in-place, lost income and systemic sexism. So we need to get the information on rights and resources out as fast and wide as we can. There is help.”.
The commission also revealed that an online guide has been created for women in Hawaii to follow if they are victimized by a landlord. The HCRC will offer guidance on the emergency rent assistance at 808–586–5757, and will also be keeping a database of bad landlords.
Women in Hawaii were also told to file a complaint if they are victimized by any landlord.
Jabola-Carolus added, “Retaliation by a landlord for filing a complaint against him is illegal. If your landlord changes the locks or shuts off your utilities for complaining about his sexual predation, you can file a landlord-tenant TRO against your landlord and the court will take these cases during the crisis. Please contact Legal Aid Society of Hawaii for help with retaliation. There are no income limits for their help when it comes to fair housing matters.”