The Justice Department today announced it has reached an agreement with defendant Larry Nelson to resolve a Fair Housing Act lawsuit alleging that he sexually harassed female tenants while owning and managing San Diego area rental properties.
Under the consent order entered by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Nelson must pay at least $230,000 to $205,000 in damages to tenants harmed by his harassment and a $25,000 civil penalty to the United States. A judgment for an additional $350,000 also was entered against Nelson in favor of the United States, but is suspended based on sworn disclosure statements reflecting Nelson’s financial situation. Any misrepresentation or omission by Nelson on those disclosure statements will trigger collection of the suspended judgment. Nelson also is prohibited from being involved in property management of rental units in the future and must hire an independent professional property manager. He also must implement a nondiscrimination policy and complaint procedure and must release judgments obtained against victims whom he wrongfully evicted.
The United States’ lawsuit alleged that Nelson’s harassment spanned a period of nearly two decades. The allegations included that Nelson engaged in unwelcome sexual touching, offered to reduce monthly rental payments in exchange for sex, made unwelcome sexual comments and advances, made intrusive and unannounced visits to female tenants’ homes to further his sexual advances, and evicted or threatened to evict female tenants who objected to or refused his sexual advance.
“People deserve to be safe in their homes,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Sexual harassment in housing deprives them of that security. The Justice Department will not tolerate landlords who abuse their power by sexually harassing their tenants and will continue vigorously to pursue allegations of sexual harassment.”
“Abusive landlords in San Diego and Imperial counties should be on notice that protecting the civil rights of citizens in our district is a top priority, and we do not tolerate discrimination and harassment in housing,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy S. Grossman for the Southern District of California. “Holding a key to someone’s property is a position of trust, not a license to engage in illegal sexual harassment and sexual demands.”
This case was jointly litigated by attorneys in the Civil Rights Division and the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California. The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. The goal of the department’s Initiative is to address and raise awareness about sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers, or other people who have control over housing. Since launching the Initiative in October 2017, the Department of Justice has filed 21 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered over $2.5 million for victims of such harassment.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.justice.gov/crt. Individuals may report sexual harassment or other forms of housing discrimination by calling the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mailing the Justice Department at email@example.com, or submitting a report online. Individuals may also report such discrimination by contacting HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or by filing a complaint online.