By KIMBERLEY HAAS
An agreement to resolve a lawsuit against a landlord who allegedly touched female tenants and entered their apartments without consent has been reached.
Officials at the United States Department of Justice announced on Tuesday that Davenport, Iowa, landlord Juan Goitia will be prohibited from managing rental housing and is required to retain an independent property manager to oversee any rental properties he has now or in the future because he violated the Fair Housing Act.
“Sexual harassment by housing providers is an illegal and egregious abuse of power that deprives tenants of their right to be safe and secure in their homes,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Clarke said the Justice Department is committed to protecting the rights of vulnerable tenants subjected to sexual harassment. They will continue to hold landlords accountable and obtain relief for survivors, she said.
The lawsuit was filed in 2020 and allegations go back as far as 2010.
In addition to the alleged touching and entry without permission, Goitia allegedly made unwelcome comments and sexual advances.
He also allegedly took adverse actions against tenants who resisted him sexually or complained about his behavior.
According to William Morris of the Des Moines Register, an attorney for Goitia said the settlement agreement includes their client’s denial of all allegations against him.
The settlement also resolves claims against 908 Bridge Cooperative. The properties are where the harassment allegedly occurred.
Morris wrote that Scott County records show that the Bridge Avenue property identified in court filings sold for $940,000 in January and all Goitia’s other properties are listed for sale, according to the settlement agreement.
At the time of the complaint Goitia owned at least nine multifamily properties, according to Morris.
Individuals harmed by Goitia’s alleged behavior will receive $135,000 in compensation. Goitia and 908 Bridge Cooperative will also have to pay a civil penalty to the United States.
The United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa must approve this settlement agreement.
This case was litigated by attorneys in the department’s Civil Rights Division and the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorneys’ 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, according to a press release.
You can watch one of their public service announcements below:
The Department of Justice has filed 23 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered over $9.6 million for victims of such harassment since launching the initiative in October of 2017.
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.
People can report sexual harassment and other forms of housing discrimination by calling the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-833-591-0291, or by submitting a report online.
Individuals may also report such discrimination by contacting HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or by filing a complaint online.
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