Government officials in Hawaii have noticed an increase in the number of women reporting landlords asking for sexual favors in exchange for rent. This suggests that landlords are using the COVID-19 pandemic to prey on some tenants' financial insecurity and fear of being evicted during a crisis.
Immigration attorney Kevin Block told Australian news network 9NEWS that some landlords instead of asking for rent are asking for "other arrangements.” Some are even sending graphic sexual images and explicit messages when women tenants ask about rent.
Block, however, is worried about people who are not reporting. He said, “I am concerned because reported incidents indicate a greater number of unreported incidents.” He recommends that anyone who has been victimized by a landlord and has the security to report, to report the incident.
Because of recent layoffs and dismissals, only 69 percent of American renters were able to make rent on April 1. As a result, many tenants are striking and not paying rent for April and May.
Executive Director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, Khara Jabola-Carolus, says that these trecherous circumstances, like sexual harassment by landlords, makes it very hard for women to shelter-in-place. There has been a lot of concern for people in abusive households that have to quarantine because of COVID-19.
The Hawaii State Commission for Women has created an online guide for people who have been victimized by a landlord. The goal of the Commission’s guide is to offer help with emergency rent assistance and to maintain a database of bad landlords. Landlords cannot retaliate for filing a complaint against them. It is illegal for them to change the locks or shut off utilities for complaining about sexual harassment.
“There was no plan upfront to prepare for the physical and sexual violence from the combination of shelter-in-place, lost income and systemic sexism. We need to get the information on rights and resources out as fast and wide as we can. There is help.” Jabola-Carolus told 9news.
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Georgia is a journalism student at The New School in Manhattan who loves writing, watching cartoons and intersectional feminism. She is an avid napper and cat lover. Because she is behind on the times, follow her only recently made twitter @georgiagrdodd.