PORTLAND, Maine — A local property manager has agreed to pay a $15,000 civil penalty to resolve allegations that he harassed female tenants by making unwanted sexual advances and offering to lower their rent in exchange for sex, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday.
A civil complaint filed Monday in federal court in Portland outlined the complaints against Rudy Ferrante, which took place in apartments he managed in 2008 and 2009 in Maine’s largest city, according to a press release issued Monday.
“The harassment included but was not limited to: making unwelcome sexual advances and unwelcome sexual comments to female tenants; soliciting sexual favors in exchange for a reduction or waiver of rent; making sexual advances once female tenants default on their rent; exposing [his] genitals to female tenants and making sexual gestures,” the complaint said.
The court document also said that Ferrante sent repeated and unwelcome sexual text messages, appeared at female tenants’ homes late at night to solicit sex, failed to respond to complaints about sexual harassment, and evicted or relocated female tenants when they objected to his sexual advances or sexual conduct.
The consent order, which is subject to the approval of U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torresen, also orders Ferrante to commit no more acts of discrimination, requires him to undergo fair housing training and requires that he provide a copy of the order to his employees and any property owner for whom he manages units.
A date for a hearing before Torresen on the consent order has not been set.
“The women involved in this case were subjected to intimidating and severe acts of sexual harassment in their homes, where they have a right to feel safe,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department said in the press release. “This order sends the message that the Civil Rights Division does not tolerate such conduct and will enforce the right to equal access to housing when it learns of violations of the Fair Housing Act.”
The Justice Department began investigating Ferrante after the Portland office of Pine Tree Legal Assistance notified the Justice Department of sexual harassment complaints about Ferrante.
The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status.
Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination should call the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 800-896-7743, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 800-669-9777.