If you are denied an opportunity to rent or buy a home because of your sex, you are a victim of illegal housing discrimination. It is also illegal for landlords and other housing providers to treat in-place residents differently because of their sex.
While the decade of the 1960s was in important period in the modern civil rights movement for racial and ethnic minorities, the 1970s was an era of growth in the women’s movement. One significant legislative achievement of the decade occurred in 1974, when the Fair Housing Act was amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex (gender). The law protects men as well as women from housing discrimination, but the majority of sex discrimination claims involve policies or practices that limit women’s housing choices or are likely to affect women more severely.
Examples & Warning Signs of Sex Discrimination
- Delay or denial of home loans, or less favorable terms, to women who are pregnant or on maternity leave.
- Rental criteria (employment, credit, income) that have a tendency to disfavor female applicants.
- Increasing rent or threatening eviction because of the birth of a child or for adding a child to the household.
- Curfews or other types of interference with a renters’ rights that are applied, or applied more strictly, to women or to men.
- Taking negative actions against survivors of domestic violence because of the actions of their abusers.
- Advertising that indicates a preference for women or men (it may be legal to advertise for housemates of the same sex when housemates share common living areas).
- Sexual harassment by the landlord or landlord’s agents or employees.
Landlord Sexual Harassment
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a housing provider offers something (i.e., reduced rent, repairs, or stopping and eviction) to a resident in exchange for sex. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is illegal even if the offer is accepted because of the difference in bargaining power between a housing provider and tenant.
- Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when a housing provider subjects a resident to conduct of a sexual nature that is unwelcome and sufficiently severe or persistent that it interferes with or deprives the resident of her right to use and enjoy her housing.
If you believe you denied a housing opportunity or treated unfairly because of your sex, contact the GBLA Fair Housing Law Project.
FHLP Cases Involving Sex Discrimination
- Women from two mobile home parks in eastern Kern County alleged that they were subject to repeated propositions by the park manager—even after they told him that his sexual advances were unwelcome. One resident was especially disturbed when the manager entered her mobile home without her knowledge or permission in an attempt to persuade her to become involved in a romantic relationship. GBLA helped the resident get a restraining order against the park manager, and FHLP filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of both women. The lawsuit settled shortly before trial, resulting in compensation to the victims, “retirement” of the park manager, and the park owner’s adoption of new harassment and discrimination policies to protect all residents of their mobile home parks.
- While representing women in eviction cases, GBLA housing attorneys discovered that a Bakersfield landlord’s female tenants were alleging that the landlord was evicting them because they refused his sexual advances. Although the women did not know each other and lived all over town in single-family rentals, their stories were remarkably similar. GBLA eventually obtained evidence of the harassment—including an admissions made in court by the landlord during an eviction trial. Because of the massive scope of sexual harassment, the case was referred to a private attorney, and later to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), who filed federal lawsuits against the landlord. When the case was settled in late 2012, the DOJ reported that it was the largest settlement of a DOJ landlord sexual harassment lawsuit in U.S. history. In addition to financial compensation to more than 20 known victims, the landlord agreed to get out of the property rental business.