Some landlords are demanding sex in exchange for rent, advocates say

Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, said her office has received more reports of landlords sexually harassing their tenants in the last two weeks than it had in the two years since she started working there, including cases of landlords offering to move in with tenants and sending sexually explicit photos to them after they communicated concerns about paying April rent.

While the number of cases wasn’t necessarily astronomical — the commission received 10 reports about nine landlords — Jabola-Carolus said they were especially notable given such cases go “vastly underreported.”

“Landlord coercion has always been a reality, but we’ve never seen anything like this,” Jabola-Carolus said. “The coronavirus creates the perfect conditions for landlords who want to do this because not only are people being instructed to stay home, but the virus has added to the economic stress with people losing their jobs, especially in Hawaii, which is driven by tourism.”