Sex-for-Rent Lawsuit Against North Carolina Housing Agency
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UPDATED: May 22, 2016
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A lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that a Hickory, North Carolina public housing administrator sexually harassed and threatened 5 women. The women claim that the Hickory Public Housing Authority ignored their complaints that its former administrator, Montele Burton, sexually harassed and threatened them.
Accusations of Abuse
One woman accuses Burton of stalking her, going through her laundry, and showing up at her home after hours. Another woman claims that Burton offered to pay her rent in exchange for sexual favors. Two of the five women admit to performing sexual favors because they needed the money. These allegations become public after a series of reports by The Charlotte Observer.
Burton has denied the allegations, calling this a “witch hunt,” based upon lies started by former co-workers. Burton claims that the tenants are seeking revenge for him making sure that they paid rent on time.
Hickory Public Housing Authority Executive Director Alanda Richardson has previously denied the accusations and stated that she was unaware of the harassment accusation until an attorney began contacting tenants to ask whether they had been harassed by Burton.
Burton left his position as an administrator with the Hickory Public Housing Authority in February 2015, while under investigation for an inappropriate relationship with a tenant. Burton then joined the Statesville Housing Authority as an assistant property manager in June 2015. The Statesville Housing Authority and Burton later “mutually agreed to separate” once the Observer’s reports were published.
In response to an open records request from the Observer, the Monroe Housing Authority released records from Burton’s personnel file showing that he was fired in October 2011 after an investigation of text messages he sent to a female tenant.
Laws to Protect Vulnerable Tenants
Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (The Fair Housing Act) protects people from discrimination when they are renting, buying, or securing financing for housing. Specifically, it prohibits discrimination based upon race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap. However, sexual harassment of tenants by predatory landlords remains a persistent problem, and is the subject of a recent rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices Under the Fair Housing Act will formalize standards used in investigations and adjudications of discrimination and harassment claims. The rule further defines “quid pro quo” and “hostile environment harassment,” as prohibited under the Fair Housing Act, and adds illustrations of discriminatory housing practices that constitute such harassment.
HUD receives approximately 1,600 – 1,900 harassment complaints each year. The majority of these complaints involve sexual harassment. This suit against Burton and the Hickory Public Housing Authority is one of many recent housing discrimination suits. In July, Southeast Community and Family Services Inc. in Robeson County, North Carolina, paid $2.7 million in damages after its administrators were accused of sexual harassment. In September, the city of Baltimore housing authority was sued by a group of tenants who allege that the maintenance men were demanding sex in exchange for repair work.
If you feel that you are the victim of housing discrimination you can contact HUD to file a Housing Discrimination Complaint.