|HUD No. 23-189
HUD Public Affairs
September 1, 2023
HUD CHARGES OWNER AND PROPERTY MANAGER OF MISSOURI AREA RENTAL PROPERTIES WITH DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SEX
WASHINGTON - Today the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it is charging Second Bell Trust, owner of multiple single-family rental properties in the Springfield Missouri area, and its agent and property manager, Jimmie Bell, with housing discrimination for allegedly subjecting a female tenant to sexual harassment, including requests for sexual favors in exchange for rent, unwanted touching, and discriminatory statements based on sex. Read the charge.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits sexual harassment of tenants and other forms of housing discrimination based on race, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), color, national origin, disability, religion, and familial status.
"Subjecting tenants to unwelcome sexual advances and sexual harassment is outrageous and a clear violation of the law," said Demetria L. McCain, HUD's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "Today's charge sends a clear message to all landlords that HUD is committed to taking action against landlords whose behavior violates the Fair Housing Act."
"The intolerable and deplorable conduct alleged in this case constitutes sexual harassment that violates the Fair Housing Act," said Damon Smith, HUD's General Counsel. "HUD is committed to protecting the rights of tenants to be free from such harassment by their landlords."
HUD's charge, issued on behalf of the tenant and her children and nephew, alleges Jimmie Bell made repeated unwelcome sexual comments to the tenant and pressured her to provide sexual favors when she fell behind on rent payments. The charge further alleges Bell grabbed the tenant’s intimate areas. The tenant and her children moved out after enduring several years of sexual harassment from Bell.
HUD's charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge 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, he may award damages to the complainant for harm caused by discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages.
Persons who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY).