Tenants Protected from Discrimination Based on Sex


Some tenants who have a disagreement with their landlord, or fall behind in the rent are threatened with eviction. Sometimes a landlord may ask for sex from a tenant in payment for rent or to stop an eviction. This is illegal. There are a few different laws that protect tenants.

The Iowa Supreme Court decided a case on March 30, 2007, that talked about tenants being protected by the Iowa Civil Rights Act when the landlord asked for sexual favors. The case involved two separate female tenants. Jeannie Dobbs and Dawn Halligan rented from John Burche. Mr. Burche grabbed and kissed Ms. Dobbs. He also told her that she was pretty. He even went into her home without the twenty-four hour required notice, and there was no emergency, when Ms. Dobbs was in the shower. The acts of the landlord caused Ms. Dobbs to move from her home.
Ms. Halligan was unable to have electric and water service in her name due to poor credit, so Mr. Burche kept the utilities in his name. Ms. Halligan also was having trouble paying her rent. She asked to work to clean apartments. Mr. Burche offered her "gifts", which Ms. Halligan understood would be lower rent, in exchange for sex. She declined. Mr. Burche then threatened to evict her for nonpayment of rent, even though she had cleaned apartments for him. He also cut off her electrical and water service. Ms. Halligan moved from her home.

The Court put limits on what the landlord could do in the future. The Court entered an injunction stopping Mr. Burche permanently from sexually harassing tenants and from visiting them at their homes. The landlord was also ordered to pay money to the victims of his terrible acts.

The Iowa Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act both protect tenants, male or female, from discrimination in housing based upon sex. Even if you are behind in your rent, or can't get utilities in your name and you are supposed to according to the lease, you are protected from discrimination. A tenant does not need to give up his or her self respect and dignity to avoid being homeless. The landlord must follow the law in attempting to evict a tenant, for any reason.

Helping low-income Iowans who face legal problems involving housing is a priority for Iowa Legal Aid. To find out which office serves your county, call 1-800-532-1275.

Last Review and Update: Jun 25, 2007

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