Low-income women experience a nightmarish victimization when they are sexually harassed by landlords in their homes, homes many are desperate to keep. The staggering lack of data on this issue means laws and courts have been slow to address this phenomenon. Although courts have relied primarily on a Title VII employment-based sexual harassment framework to address this issue, it does not go far enough in protecting women in their homes. The home and the workplace are inherently different and thus require a different legal approach to redress the issue.
This comment examines sexual harassment in housing and why Texas women are particularly susceptible to it. This comment further advocates for courts to look to existing housing law and expand application of the Fair Housing Act’s disparate impact approach in addressing sexual harassment in housing to low-income women. Low- income women of color are the primary victims of sexual harassment in housing; this permits a gender and race-based disparate impact theory as another framework through which courts may craft a solution, though it too has its shortcomings. Additional measures, such as the expansion of federal law to cover sexual harassment in housing, and state-level policy changes that would penalize deviant landlords and property owners, would serve to empower and strengthen low- income Texas women without leaving entire subsections of the population behind. This comment further argues that holistic community-level action is not only desirable, but necessary to educate communities and provide low-income women increased access to the courts. Finally, the above suggested measures will do little to change the outlook for low-income women if states fail to address the underlying issue that makes the need for housing so desperate: the affordable housing crisis.
When Home is a Living Hell: Vulnerable Women and Sexual Harassment in Housing,
Tex. A&M J. Prop. L.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.37419/jpl.V6.I4.5