WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it is pursuing legal action against a Springfield landlord for allegedly subjecting a female tenant to sexual harassment.
“The reality is, is that it’s often too common, mainly because there is no protections,” said Jonathan Byrd of Springfield Tenants Unite.
Jimmie Bell, an agent and property manager of Second Bell Trust in Springfield, allegedly requested sexual favors in exchange for rent, touched the tenant inappropriately, and made discriminatory statements based on sex.
The federal lawsuit alleges Bell made repeated sexual comments to the tenant and pressured her to provide sexual favors when she fell behind on rent payments. The lawsuit also alleges Bell grabbed the tenant’s intimate areas.
Bell sued the tenant in May 2019, claiming the tenant owed $12,400, but that case was dismissed without prejudice after Bell failed to appear in court later that month.
Bell issued a notice of lease non-renewal on May 29, 2019, stating he was selling the house, according to the documents.
The tenant and her children moved out after enduring several years of sexual harassment from Bell, according to HUD.
The documents also allege that Bell made unwelcome sexual advances toward at least 11 other women during their residency.
HUD says this case will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court.
A spokesperson for the Springfield Police Department said Tuesday none of the tenants had filed a police report against Bell.
Byrd said filing a report and taking legal action can better protect tenants in situations similar to this.
“We are finding that when, you know, tenants have access to legal representation, that they tend to actually have a chance and oftentimes do win,” Byrd said.