Fair Housing Act fights sexual harassment in Arkansas

A landlord tells a female tenant who has fallen behind on her rent that she can exchange sexual favors for rent. A woman is forced to move from her home after her landlord exposes himself to her and demands sex. In another instance, a maintenance man repeatedly tells a renter how much he likes her body and keeps requesting sex despite the woman telling him to stop. Each of these acts is sexual harassment, and sexual harassment is discrimination that violates the Fair Housing Act.

Each April, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) observes Fair Housing Month to mark the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the law that prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and family status.

This year HUD has declared its 2020 Fair Housing Month theme to be, “Call HUD, Because Sexual Harassment in Housing is Illegal.” Our goal is to better educate the public on what behaviors constitute sexual harassment and what they can do and who they should contact if they experience it in their communities.

With regards to the 2020 theme of prohibiting sexual harassment, in April 2018, HUD and the Justice Department launched a joint initiative to combat sexual harassment in housing nationwide by increasing the public’s awareness of the issue and encouraging reporting. Since then, the Justice Department has filed over a dozen lawsuits.

HUD also launched a special campaign and training initiative to help protect people from harassment by landlords, property managers, and maintenance workers in HUD-assisted housing. We know that this outreach works. We have many stories from victims who said they were unaware that this kind of harassment is illegal and that they could go to HUD for help.

As a result, over the past two years, HUD and its partner organizations have obtained more than $1 million in compensation for nearly 130 survivors and victims of harassment.

HUD remains committed to helping everyone in Arkansas who faces housing discrimination whether it’s because of their race, color, where they come from, their sex, religion, family status, or disability. If you believe that you have experienced discrimination, including sexual harassment discrimination, in housing, you can file a complaint by contacting HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints can also be filed by going to hud.gov/fairhousing.

Fair housing, including housing free from the threat of sexual harassment, is not just important, it’s your legal right.

The Fort Worth Regional Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity covers Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Leslie Bradley is HUD’s Deputy Regional Administrator for Region VI, responsible for coordinating HUD activities in the Southwest United States.