East County Landlord Settles With DOJ For $580K In Sexual Harassment Suit
A Spring Valley landlord accused of sexually harassing multiple female tenants at his properties over the course of several years has agreed to a $580,000 civil judgment to resolve allegations brought against him by the Department of Justice and the alleged victims.
The agreement, laid out in a consent order filed Monday in San Diego federal court, will make $205,000 payable to 13 victims, according to the document. The judgment also includes a $25,000 civil penalty and a suspension of the remaining $350,000 due to the landlord's financial situation.
The landlord, Larry Nelson, denies any liability, wrongdoing or improper actions, according to the consent order, while the Department of Justice and one alleged victim who joined the DOJ's lawsuit "maintain that their claims are well-founded."
The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Nelson in 2019 accusing him of various sexual allegations dating back to 2005 against female tenants at two Spring Valley apartment buildings he owned and managed.
The DOJ also alleged he made unwelcome sexual advances to several female tenants, including requests to touch the women or general comments about their bodies, exposed his genitals to tenants, peeped through their bedroom windows, entered the tenants' apartments without their consent and demanded that female tenants not have male guests at their homes.
The complaint also alleged 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 stated that by doing so, Nelson was in violation of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation by landlords.
In addition to monetary penalties, Nelson is barred from a number of activities related to managing his properties, including prohibitions against entering any unit at his properties unless it is an emergency and a requirement that he enter into an agreement with an independent manager to maintain the rentals.
While Nelson may make recommendations regarding property management, the ultimate authority on many issues, including decisions on rental increases and whom to rent to or evict, will lie with the independent manager, according to the consent order.