WASHINGTON – The Justice Department on Tuesday sued a northwest Missouri landlord Tuesday alleging he sexually harassed female tenants and threatened them with eviction if they refused his advances.
The lawsuit claims 85-year-old Harold Calvert, manager of 16 rental properties in Richmond, Mo., made unwanted verbal and physical sexual advances to women who lived in his units.
"Housing is a fundamental need and no woman should be victimized while trying to obtain shelter for herself and her family," said Wan J. Kim, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil rights division.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, alleges Calvert violated the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits sexual discrimination in housing. Some of Calvert's tenants receive Section 8 federal rental assistance from the Richmond Housing Authority.
Government officials also named Calvert Properties Inc., in the lawsuit, alleging the property management company failed to prevent or curtail the discriminatory conduct. Calvert is president of the company.
The government is seeking damages to compensate the victims, plus civil penalties and a court order barring further discrimination.
A person who answered the phone at Calvert's residence said he was not available for comment.
In June, Calvert and his company faced similar charges from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
HUD officials said their investigation showed at least seven female tenants were subjected to "offensive sexual behavior." The administrative action alleged that Calvert offered to pay tenants for sex, requested sex in exchange for rent or other favors, made unwanted attempts to kiss and grope and had repeated sexual intercourse with at least one female tenant.
The HUD action is pending before an administrative law judge.
Kim said the Justice Department has recently stepped up its enforcement against landlords accused of sexually harassing tenants.