Renters across the US are going on strike, but some landlords are using reprehensible tactics. (Getty)
A college student was allegedly threatened with gang rape after the coronavirus pandemic left him late on his rent.
Jerry Miles, 20, moved in to a shared house in February near his college in Indianapolis. Before then, he’d been staying with a family friend after his father was jailed.
Miles told BuzzFeed News that as lockdowns came into effect at the end of March, he was told by his valet job that he would most likely lose all his hours.
He reached out to his landlord, and the two men agreed that Miles would pay $1,000 to cover two months rent when his government stimulus cheque arrived.
Two weeks later, on April 10, Miles was leaving home to go to work as a Postmates delivery person. He said that his landlord parked up infront of the house as he was leaving, and asked him if he had his rent money yet.
When he replied that he hadn’t yet received his government stimulus, Miles alleges that the landlord threatened to come over to the house and rape him if he didn’t pay up.
The landlord then allegedly claimed that because he would only be able to perform sexually for five minutes, he would bring some friends with him. Miles said he understood this to mean he would be raped by these friends.
The 20-year-old claims he was told he would be gang raped every day until his rent was paid, and that he might consider going into sex work in order to make up the money.
Landlord denies rape claims.
“It was really disgusting. I was beyond shocked,” Miles told BuzzFeed.
“I’ve never heard a landlord talk to somebody like that in my life.”
He immediately moved out of the house, staying with a friend for a week before finding a new apartment.
The landlord, who was not named, vehemently denied making any rape threats, and said that he only asked Miles when he could expect to be paid.
“That’s the most ludicrous thing. I’m kind of insulted,” he said.
The incident was not reported to police.
Sex-for-rent scandal is widespread.
Since the pandemic hit, leaving millions without any certain income, there have been widespread reports of landlords pressuring tenants for sex in lieu of rent.
US attorney general William Bar has told attorneys across the country to “divert all necessary resources” to investigating sex-for-rent schemes, stressing: “Such behaviour is despicable and it is illegal.”
Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, wrote in a Medium post that any form of sexual harassment from a landlord is a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and, arguably, a form of sex trafficking under the Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Act of 2015.
Jabola-Carolus recommends keeping a record of all conversations and evidence, telling a trusted person, and contacting the police only if you feel safe to do so.
She stressed that police will in turn contact the landlord, which might make them feel emboldened.
CNN reported that in the first five days of April almost a third of US renters didn’t pay their rent. Just 69 per cent were able to pay rent on time, compared to 82 per cent the year prior.