SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Department of Justice announced a lawsuit Tuesday against a Spring Valley landlord who allegedly sexually harassed multiple female tenants at his properties over the course of several years.
Larry Nelson is accused of various sexual allegations dating back to 2005 against female tenants at two Spring Valley apartments he owned and managed. The Department of Justice alleges Nelson made unwelcome sexual advances to several female tenants, including requests to touch the women or general comments about their bodies.
The DOJ's complaint also alleges that he exposed his genitals to tenants and peeped through their bedroom windows. He allegedly entered the tenants' homes without their consent and demanded female tenants not have male guests at their homes.
The complaint also states that he offered benefits like reduced or waived rent in exchange for sexual favors, and threatened to evict tenants who refused his advances. The DOJ states that by doing so, Nelson was in violation of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation by landlords.
"Any landlord who sexually harasses his tenants or retaliates against them for refusing sexual advances, destroys their housing security and risks families' ability to keep a roof over their heads," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said. "Anyone who engages in this kind of disgusting and illegal conduct should be on notice: the Department of Justice will be coming for you."
Nelson could not be reached for comment.
The DOJ alleges the harassment was "a longstanding pattern or practice of illegal sexual harassment of female tenants over the entire course of his ownership and operation of his rental properties."
Some of the alleged incidents include Nelson asking one tenant, who lived at his Harness Street property in 2005, for sex multiple times in exchange for forgoing or reducing her rent. The complaint states he also peeped through her bedroom windows on multiple occasions.
The same offers of sex for rent were also allegedly made to a woman who lived at Nelson's Grand Avenue property in 2008. She was evicted after repeatedly refusing his requests, the DOJ alleges.
Last year, Nelson allegedly exposed himself to a woman living at the Harness Street property, peeped through her bedroom window, showed her a pornographic video without her consent and made sexual comments, including "comments indicating he had gone through her laundry looking for her underwear," according to the complaint.
"Let this be a wake-up call for abusive landlords," said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. "Holding a key to someone's property is not a license to exploit them for sex."
Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of sexual harassment or other types of housing discrimination at rental dwellings owned or managed by Larry Nelson, or who have other information that may be relevant to this case, can contact the Housing Discrimination Tip Line, at 1-800-896-7743, and select mailbox 9991 to leave a message.