A federal judge signed off Thursday on a settlement reached between the government and a Spring Valley landlord accused of sexually harassing multiple female tenants.
The $580,000 civil judgment makes $205,000 payable to 13 victims, according to a consent order filed in San Diego federal court last month.
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.
The Department of Justice, though, and one alleged victim who joined the DOJ’s lawsuit “maintain that their claims are well-founded.”
The government filed suit against Nelson in 2019 accusing him of various sexual allegations dating back to 2005 against tenants at two apartment buildings he owned and managed.
The DOJ 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 their 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. They include 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 rent increases and whom to rent to or evict, will lie with the independent manager, according to the consent order.
Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said, “Holding a key to someone’s property is a position of trust, not a license to engage in illegal sexual harassment and sexual demands.”