WASHINGTON — The Justice Department announced in a press release that a lawsuit has been filed against an Ohio landlord for sexually harassing female tenants and housing applicants, violating the Fair Housing Act.

Joseph Earl Lucas of Amesville, Ohio, has owned and managed more than 70 residential rental properties in and around Athens County, Ohio.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on August 31, alleges that since at least 2004, Lucas requested sex acts from female tenants and applicants, subjected female tenants to unwelcome sexual touching, made unwelcome sexual comments and advances to female tenants and their female guests; repeatedly drove by and entered female tenants’ homes without their permission; demanded that female tenant engage in sex acts with him in order not to lose housing; and offered to reduce rent or excuse late or unpaid rent in exchange for sex acts.

The lawsuit also alleges that Luca initiated evictions or threatened to evict female tenants who refused his sexual advances.

“No one should have to experience sexual harassment in their own home or their community,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will vigorously enforce fair housing law to hold accountable landlords who prey on vulnerable tenants and housing applicants.”

The lawsuit, which is the result of a joint investigative effort with the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG), seeks monetary damages to compensate any person harmed by the alleged harassment, a civil penalty to vindicate the public interest and a court order barring future discrimination.

Individuals who believe they may have been victims of sexual harassment or other types of housing discrimination at rental properties owned or managed by Joseph Lucas or who have information that may be relevant to this case may contact the Justice Department by calling the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Civil Rights Tipline 513-684-2055, emailing usaohs.civilrights@usdoj.gov  or completing a Civil Rights referral form.