Landlord, 80, Traded Housing for Sex

By Andrew Lu on September 13, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An 80-year-old landlord agreed to settle a housing sexual harassment lawsuit for a whopping $2 million. This is reportedly the largest settlement ever brought under the federal Fair Housing Act.

Rawland Leon Sorensen, of Bakersfield, California, owns about 55 properties, mostly single family homes. As a landlord for over 30 years, Sorensen is accused of sexually harassing 25 women tenants, reports The Associated Press.

Sorensen allegedly traded housing benefits for sex and retaliated against women who refused his advances. The octogenarian landlord denied the claims, but said he settled the case because he didn't want to risk losing in court, reports the AP.

In its housing sexual harassment lawsuit, the government said that Sorensen harassed women, made unwelcome sexual comments and advances, exposed his genitals, groped female tenants, and entered their residences without permission or notice, reports the AP.

The 80-year-old landlord also allegedly offered reduced rent, excused late/unpaid rent, and terminated eviction proceedings in exchange for sexual favors. In contrast, he would evict women who refused his advances, the government argued.

Many of you may be aware that sexual harassment is illegal in the employment context. Ninety-nine percent of the harassment cases you see have to do with the workplace. However, the Fair Housing Act also makes it illegal to discriminate against someone based on "sex." And as sex discrimination includes sexual harassment, sexual harassment against tenants is illegal.

It's not often that you see sexual harassment in housing lawsuits. And it's even less often that you see $2 million settlements in a housing discrimination lawsuit. But ordinary may be thrown out the window when you're dealing with an 80-year-old landlord who allegedly has the libido of a teenager.

Do you have more questions about housing discrimination? FindLaw Answers has a robust Housing Law message board where you can usually get an answer to your issue within 24 hours. Feel free to join the conversation.

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