INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A landlord accused of soliciting sex in exchange for rent agreed to a $45,900 settlement in the sexual harassment case against him, the plaintiff’s legal team announced Monday.
Henry Long, who owns and manages multiple rental properties in Indianapolis, also agreed to eliminate contact with all current and potential tenants, and attend annual fair housing training sessions.
Long did not admit to any allegations in the Fair Housing Act case filed by Abigail Savage, a former tenant, and the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana.
In March, Savage asked Long for a payment extension after she was furloughed from her restaurant job due to COVID-19.
“I love your honesty…and I don’t want to put you in a situation..but I’m in a situation..got mortgage payment due and property taxes due…let’s figure this out together,” Long said in a text message to Savage, according to the complaint.
She offered to pay him with her government stimulus check when it arrived, prompting him to ask, “you got a ride…?”
Assuming he was asking if she had a ride to deliver the rent money, Savage replied that she could call an Uber or ask a friend to drive her.
The following transcript of text messages is documented in the complaint.
LONG: “So…you gonna stay all night?”
SAVAGE: “What do you mean? I don’t know if you meant to send that to me”
LONG: “I did”
SAVAGE: “I don’t understand what you mean[.] Stay where?”
LONG: “Stay wit[h] me tonight…get a shot of that”
SAVAGE: “I don’t think I understand what you are asking. What do you mean?”
LONG: “U don’t want to…I understand…”
SAVAGE: “I don’t understand. Are you asking in a sexual way?”
Savage left the east side house she was renting from Long several weeks after the exchange.
She suffered emotional distress, loss of housing, loss of dignity and invasion of her private right of occupancy as a result of Long’s conduct, her attorneys alleged.
“It made me feel absolutely violated, on top of just having lost my job,” Savage told News 8 in May, before filing suit against Long. “I felt like he was trying to trap me.”
Tenants – especially those already experiencing housing insecurity – are more vulnerable to housing-related discrimination and harassment during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Amy Nelson, executive director of the Fair Housing Center.
Housing-related discrimination incidents tend to increase during housing market downturns, but the vast majority of incidents are not reported and investigated, she said.
An estimated 4 million housing discrimination incidents occur each year, according to data from the National Fair Housing Alliance. Approximately 30,000 incidents – less than 1% – are reported.
“People don’t know what’s happening to them may be unlawful. They may be scared to speak up. They may risk what housing that they have,” Nelson said.
Fair housing advocates hope Savage’s case will empower more tenants to research their rights and document predatory behavior.
Hoosiers who have experienced housing-related harassment are encouraged to contact the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana at (317) 644-0673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.