A landlord has agreed never to manage residential properties again after obtaining a consent order from federal authorities, the US Department of Justice announced Tuesday.
According to court documents Juan Goitia of Davenport, Iowa, has compiled a lengthy list of grievances from a tenant for actions he committed while managing the 908 Bridge Cooperative. Goitia owned the company and he used the company to “control and operate at least nine (9) multifamily residential properties,” the DOJ wrote.
A complaint filed June 29, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa states that Goitia charged a tenant at 1011 Bridge Avenue with a series of “discriminations based on sex, including serious, pervasive and undesirable sexual conduct.” “exposed harassment” between March 2018 and July of the same year. These acts are said to have included in the complaint:
a. Offer again and again [the tenant] Massages and stating that his massages focused on the chest, groin, and thigh areas;
b. Repeats unwelcome comments to [the tenant] sexual in nature, including comments or questions about their sexual activities, such as For example, noting that “Irish girls are horny. I bet you get a lot” and asking her about her sexual experiences with her boyfriend;
c. Suggest [the tenant]including asking if she’s ever considered “having something on the side”;
i.e. Keep knocking [the tenant]slamming the woman’s door late at night and entering her apartment without permission and without explanation, even when she was in the shower;
e. Reach his hand underneath [the tenant]her skirt without her consent and touches her thigh;
f. entering [the tenant]’s unit, unbidden, and touched her vaginal area.
The tenant “repeatedly rejected Mr Goitia’s advances and made it clear that his behavior was undesirable, including by posting signs inside and outside her apartment asking him to leave her alone and asking him to leave her apartment not to enter,” the complaint reads.
The tenant filed a report with local police on June 25, 2018, and three days later filed a federal civil rights suit for fair housing, the complaint said.
Searching court records in Iowa, Law&Crime uncovered a concurrent state-level civil suit between the tenant and Goitia. On August 6, 2018, a request for relief for sexual abuse was filed by the tenant, and a judge immediately issued a restraining order.
Several other state-level cases list the name Juan Francisco Goitia or Juan F Goitiaof the same date of birth and age, in relation to a number of cases involving 908 Bridge Cooperative.
The tenant ended her stay in her apartment at the end of July 2018 and made arrangements to end her lease. When Goitia received a notice of the federal fair housing complaint, he issued a “Notice to Cure or Quit” and never returned the tenant’s deposit.
The FBI charged Goitia with causing the tenant “physical harm, fear, anxiety and emotional distress” and “inhibiting her ability to secure housing.”
An investigation by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development led to an “attempted arbitration” that ended “unsuccessfully,” the complaint said. As a result, HUD issued a “discrimination lawsuit” accusing Goitia and his company of “engaging in discriminatory housing practices based on gender.” The tenant elected to take the case directly to federal court and out of the administrative review channels under federal law, and HUD authorities allowed the case to go in that direction — which they did.
The result was a DOJ-backed civil lawsuit on behalf of the tenant against Goitia and his company, alleging multiple violations of multiple sections of 42 U.S.C. § 3604 (Discrimination in the sale or rental of housing) and a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3617 (interference, coercion or intimidation).
An amended complaint filed on November 6, 2020 states that the above tenant was not the only victim. Documents have alleged that similar behavior dates back at least to 2010 and includes, but is not limited to:
a. making sexually explicit comments to female tenants;
b. Unwanted sexual advances toward female tenants;
c. Proposing that female tenants exchange sexual favors for a rent reduction;
i.e. Asking or attempting to touch female tenants or to touch female tenants without their consent;
e. Unannounced visits to tenants’ homes and entering tenants’ homes without their consent;
f. Touching or removing female tenants’ underwear when they are not at home; and
G. Retaliating against female tenants who have refused his advances or complained about his behavior by taking adverse action such as
Federal authorities then provided further examples of Goitia’s alleged conduct:
For example, in 2012, defendant Goitia told a tenant that he was “really good at [her]’ that their ‘bed looks comfortable’ so they should ‘give it a try’ and that he had a dream where he ‘got his way [her].” The accused Goitia also showed this tenant his penis and asked her if she “wanted it”. After this tenant refused his advances, the accused Goitia terminated her tenancy.
Additionally, in 2015, defendant Goitia told a tenant that he was a licensed massage therapist in Florida and offered to massage her knee. Without waiting for the tenant’s reply, the accused Goitia began massaging her knee and moving his hands up her thigh. Defendant Goitia then told her that his most requested massage was “on the groin and buttock areas” because it was “the most relaxing.” Over the next few months, the accused Goitia repeatedly asked this tenant if he could continue the massage, which made the tenant very uncomfortable and concerned for her safety.
In 2018, the accused Goitia repeatedly touched a tenant without her permission, including touching her hips, her hair and her bottom, although she told him it was inappropriate. Defendant Goitia also regularly made inappropriate comments about her physical appearance, hair and clothing to this tenant. Goitia’s repeated touches and comments disturbed the tenant, making her restless and anxious.
“These women’s experiences were not isolated,” the DOJ wrote. “Rather, these were part of the long-standing pattern or practice of unlawful sexual harassment of female tenants by the defendant Goitia.”
The record of the state court case between the original plaintiff tenant and the landlord states that the case was dismissed prior to trial on February 8, 2019, at the apparent request of the tenant. An attorney for the tenant has not returned an email or phone call from Law&Crime to clarify whether the termination was based on a decision to take the case to federal court, but that strategy seems likely given the case’s ultimate development in courts.
The landlord agreed to settle the federal case with the DOJ on Tuesday called. A judge needs to approve the deal, but it is for now demands the accused – Goitia and 908 Bridge Cooperative – to pay $135,000 in compensation to the victims and a civil penalty to the government. It also prohibits Goitia from “continuing to manage rental properties”, “requires Goitia to hire an independent property manager to manage any rental properties it owns or will own in the future”, and requires training on sexual harassment.
“Sexual harassment by housing providers is an illegal and egregious abuse of power that deprives renters of their right to be safe and secure in their homes.” called Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the rights of vulnerable renters who have been subjected to sexual harassment and will continue to hold landlords accountable and seek relief for survivors.”
The case was handled directly by the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC
Some of the court documents are below:
[Image via PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images]
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https://lawandcrime.com/sexual-harassment/iowa-landlord-who-entered-apartment-of-showering-tenant-and-repeatedly-offered-breast-groin-and-thigh-massages-agrees-never-to-manage-housing-again/ Landlord Juan Goitia banned for sexually harassing tenants