How Many of You Have Been Sexually Harassed By Your Landlord?

Illustration for article titled How Many of You Have Been Sexually Harassed By Your Landlord?

Like offices, college campuses and city streets, sexual harassment is also ruining landlord-tenant relationships. Not that they were so great to begin with, but can't we just fight over building repairs while respecting each other's personal and physical boundaries?

In Minnesota, a woman named Kimberly Malchow is suing her previous landlord Harvey Tam for sexual harassment and doing in appropriate things like calling her up to five time a day and showing up when he knew she'd be breast feeding.


According to Minnesota Public Radio, this isn't abnormal. Women like Malchow who have children, rocky rental or credit history or past evictions are vulnerable to this kind of treatment. For Malchow, after she'd be sexual harassed by her landlord, she stayed and when he evicted her for late payments but allowed her to return, she moved back into the rental house. Then in 2013, she complained about the "alleged harassment" and Tam put her out for good. Tam says the allegations are untrue. From Louise Fitzgerald, a retired University of Illinois professor who researched sexual harassment in rental housing:

"Most of them are single mothers, they're not well educated," Fitzgerald said. "They're usually not employed, or they're underemployed. Many of them don't even know this is illegal, and nobody really tells them. So they don't know to complain, or they're afraid to complain."


Rental housing sexual harassment or rental harassment is different from office-based sexual harassment because the predator isn't just bothering victims in their cubicle, they're installing cameras in showers or opening their tenants doors whenever they feel like it, says Malchow's lawyer Jill Gaulding of the nonprofit Gender Justice.

"There's this notion of ownership and entitlement," Gaulding said. "There seems to be a sense by some landlords, that when they're renting property to women, that's also in a sense giving them access to the women as sex objects."


I can say I've been there as a renter in New York City in my first apartment. Late one night, I caught my landlord stealing a bookcase of mine that I'd left in a hallway and I confronted him while wearing my pajamas—as one does after midnight. Naturally, instead of focusing on his theft of my property, he was pretty sure I was hitting on him. Every encounter afterward dripped with gross innuendo and unwanted attention.

I got out of that apartment as soon as possible for a number of reasons, including the feeling that if he could've figured out a way to watch me bathe, he would've. Thankfully, I now have money and don't have to live in a place like that, but everyone isn't so lucky.


Image via Shutterstock.

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The landlord, who, after he found out that I was out of school and looking for work, would show up after my (male) roommate left but before I was out of bed and let himself in through the door that was closest to my bedroom. He never went into our upstairs neighbor's apartment, and never showed up unannounced and let himself in when my roommate was there. I also noticed in my last year of living there that if I stayed at my then-boyfriend's place for a few days and came back, things would be moved around in my room or missing all together, mostly underwear/camisoles. I lost my favorite camisole to that guy.