|HUD No. 23-140
HUD Public Affairs
July 11, 2023
HUD Charges California Landlord, Property Manager, and Maintenance Worker with Sexual Harassment
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has charged Ricardo Covarrubias, Javier Salazar, and Juvenal Salazar, the owner, property manager, and maintenance worker, respectively, of a single-family property in Bakersfield, California, with sexually harassing a female tenant and then retaliating against her when she complained about it, in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Read HUD’s Charge here.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from discriminating because of sex, including sexual harassment. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances and comments, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical behavior that is sexual in nature.
“This type of horrific conduct is exactly what the Fair Housing Act is intended to eradicate,” said Demetria L. McCain, HUD’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Tenants should not live in fear of sexual or any other kind of harassment prohibited by the Act.”
HUD’s Charge of Discrimination alleges that the property’s maintenance worker, Juvenal Salazar, harassed the tenant because of her sex, including sending her graphic sexual text messages on a daily basis and groping her in her home. After the tenant told Salazar that the conduct was unwelcome and complained to the property manager, Javier Salazar, telling them she planned to go to the police, the Salazars allegedly refused to make critical repairs to her heating appliance, leaving her without heat and gas in her home for a month. The tenant’s daughter fell ill from the lack of heat. As the tenant was vacating her home, the Salazars changed the lock on her door to prevent her from retrieving her belongings; they also refused to return her security deposit.
“By now, it should be clear to landlords and their agents that they may not sexually harass tenants,” said HUD General Counsel Damon Smith. “HUD is committed to enforcing the Fair Housing Act and holding those actors accountable.”
A United States Administrative Law Judge will hear HUD’s charge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds, after a hearing, that discrimination has occurred, the judge may award damages to the tenant for her losses as a result of the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose civil penalties to vindicate the public interest. If the federal court hears the case, the judge may also award punitive damages to the complainant.
People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 (voice) 800-927-9275 (TTY) or the Department of Justice at (800) 896-7743 or 202-514-4713. Additional information is available at www.hud.gov/fairhousing and www.justice.gov.