A Westlake rental property manager sexually harassed and assaulted female tenants for more than a decade, including offering to reduce or excuse rent in exchange for sex, the federal government alleges in a lawsuit announced Monday.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles, alleging that female tenants in residential apartment buildings near MacArthur Park were subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation by property manager Filomeno Hernandez starting in 2006, possibly earlier, until the present, violating the federal Fair Housing Act, the department said.
According to the complaint, Hernandez engaged in harassment that included, but was not limited to, frequently and repeatedly engaging in unwanted sexual touching, including sexual assault; making unwelcome sexual advances and comments; offering to reduce rent or excusing late or unpaid rent in exchange for sex; and entering the homes of female tenants without their consent.
The apartment buildings where the acts occurred are located at 729 S. Bonnie Brae St. and 720 Westlake Ave.
The lawsuit is against Hernandez and defendants described as managers or owners of the properties: Ramin Akhavan, Bonnie Brae Investment Services LLC and Westlake Property Services LLC.
“The sexual harassment of vulnerable women is unacceptable, and we will not tolerate this behavior by any landlord or property manager,” said Nick Hanna, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.
The lawsuit seeks civil penalties, monetary compensation for the victims and a court order barring future discrimination.
“No woman should have to endure sexual harassment, especially in her own home,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the department’s Civil Rights Division. “Sexual harassment in housing is unacceptable and illegal, and the Justice Department will continue vigorously to enforce the Fair Housing Act to combat this type of discrimination and to obtain relief for its victims.”
In October 2017, the Department of Justice launched an initiative to combat sexual harassment in housing, and started to implement it nationwide in April 2018. Part of that initiative is a joint task force with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to combat sexual harassment in housing.
Since launching the initiative, the Department of Justice has filed 13 lawsuits alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in housing.