Landlord Pays Civil Damages to Sexually Harassed Tenants

Rudy Ferrante, a property manager and mortgage banker in Portland, Maine, has settled out of court after being accused of sexually harassing tenants at properties he managed.  The federal district court in Portland, Maine approved a settlement that will require Ferrante to pay $15,000 in civil damages to the women he harassed in violation of federal housing laws.

The United States Department of Justice filed the lawsuit, which contained several major allegations of discrimination and harassment.  The complaint stated that Ferrante had made unwanted sexual advances toward several different female tenants.  Several tenants had also alleged that Ferrante made offers to reduce their rent—or even waive it fully—if they were willing to have sexual relations with him.

At times when female tenants would get behind on the rent and face potential eviction or additional late fees, the complaint stated that Ferrante would sometimes make sexual advances, claiming that he would be willing to let the late rent slide in exchange for sexual favors.  He was also accused of indecent exposure to female tenants and sending text messages to several different tenants that contained unsolicited sexual advances.  On multiple occasions, tenants said that Ferrante actually appeared at their homes, often during night time hours, to proposition them.

Tenants who complained about the harassment or who failed to respond favorably to Ferrante's sexual advances were sometimes evicted, or had their apartments relocated to less desirable areas of the apartment complex that Ferrante managed.

The Justice Department first learned of the sexual harassment when several of Ferrante's tenants appeared at Pine Tree Legal Assistance, a legal clinic that helps low income residents of the Portland area.

In addition to paying the $15,000 civil penalty, Ferrante has been ordered by the court to stop harassing residents and discriminating against female residents of the complexes he manages.  He will also be required to take training classes to ensure that he understands the provisions of the Fair Housing Act pertaining to discrimination and harassment.  From now on, if Ferrante manages any properties, he will be required to provide a copy of the injunction against him to the property owner so that they know Ferrante's history.

If Ferrante violates the injunction against him, he could be liable for additional civil penalties or could even be prosecuted criminally.  The Fair Housing Act prohibits sex based discrimination and harassment in all landlord/tenant relationships in the United States.


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