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Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance works to prevent sexual harassment in housing crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 2:43 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 21:22:24-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The impacts of COVID-19 aren't just medical issues.

Unemployment rates continue to rise, leaving many Californians trying to figure out how to pay bills including rent.

There are reports of some landlords who are taking advantage of the situation trying to trade sexual favors in exchange for housing, an illegal practice, the Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance team is trying to prevent.

Lawyers are telling us this type of sexual harassment is illegal under federal and state law.

They stress that the Fair Housing Act along with California's housing discrimination law, protects tenants from a landlord evicting a tenant after refusing to perform sex acts such as unwelcome touching, kissing or groping, or a landlord who won't rent an apartment to an applicant unless the applicant has sex with the landlord.

Jina Kim, an attorney with Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance says housing discrimination is often underreported.

"A lot of times the victims are embarrassed and don't want to have to tell us additional people about something like that when they have happened. But the message is, we've seen through LISTSERVs and again through other communications with similar organizations is just, you know, to be on the lookout for sexual harassment cases because this is the sort of environment where unscrupulous landlords are probably going, are likely going to try to engage in sexual harassment to take advantage of vulnerable tenants," said Kim.

GBLA offers free legal assistance for those who are low-income throughout Kern County.

If you feel that you have been a victim of housing discrimination, Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance encourages you to contact their office for a phone appointment at (661) 334-4679.