As tenants struggle to pay their bills amid the coronavirus pandemic, some landlords are using the crisis as an opportunity to sexually harass residents for rent, Buzzfeed News reports.
Stay-at-home orders are in place in many areas, and many people are facing rent and bills without a concrete source of income.
“The conditions are ripe for sexual exploitation,” Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, told BuzzFeed. She said her commission received more cases in two days than it has in the last two years.
Jabola-Carolus published an online guide on April 8 for women responding to sexual harassment in Hawaii. She wrote that the commission observed an increase in reports of landlords pressuring “arrangements” and sexual conduct with women who are struggling to pay rent due to the coronavirus crisis.
“We have seen an uptick in sexual harassment,” Sheryl Ring, the legal director at Open Communities, a legal aid and fair housing agency, told BuzzFeed. Ring said her organization saw a substantial increase in complaints related to sexual harassment within the last month.
“Since this started, they [landlords] have been taking advantage of the financial hardships many of their tenants have in order to coerce their tenants into a sex-for-rent agreement—which is absolutely illegal,” Ring said, per BuzzFeed.
Jabola-Carolus, who did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment, wrote that this behavior is a “violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and state landlord-tenant code” and provided a series of resources for those impacted.
“Make sure you document everything,” Jabola-Carolus wrote. “Include a timeline, collect evidence, and tell someone you trust.”
Ring said landlords who sexually harass tenants are often serial offenders and could already be under investigation or have been previously caught, per BuzzFeed.
Ring did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.