WICHITA, Kan. — A Kansas landlord is facing a housing discrimination charge for allegedly demanding sex from two female tenants and evicting them when they refused his advances.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the charge Thursday against Thong Cao, who owns multiple rental properties around Wichita and managed at least one other. The charge stems from complaints filed by two women evicted in 2014, including accusations that Cao slapped both of the women’s buttocks and grabbed one woman’s breast.
“Landlords who use their position to intimidate or harass residents or to attempt to trade sexual favors for rent violate the sanctity of a woman’s home, the place where she should feel the safest,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
The Associated Press couldn’t locate a publicly listed telephone number for Cao to seek comment.
One of the women worked as a property manager and alleged that Cao at one point stopped paying her cash for any duties that exceeded her $800 monthly rent. When she pleaded for money for her duties, Cao informed her she could “work off” her $800 a month rental payment through her property manager duties or she could sleep with him once a week in exchange for her rent “and still put money in her pocket.”
She rejected his request and later awoke to find Cao sitting on her bed with his hand up under her blanket and rubbing her feet, according to a court filing. Afterward, she said she no longer felt comfortable sleeping at the apartment and began staying in Kingman, Kansas, though she didn’t move her belongings. She later received an eviction notice, accusing her of failing to pay rent.
The other woman said Cao made sexual advances when he collected rent. She alleged he grabbed her when he came to her unit to inspect a toilet and she asked him to leave. She said there were no further efforts to fix the toilet, so she contacted the city. An inspector sent a letter to Cao outlining necessary repairs. The woman later filed a report with police, saying Cao was asking for sex in exchange for rent when she came up short.
The woman said he later wrote her an eviction notice when she couldn’t immediately pay. She said he had previously given her more time to come up with the money.
The case will be handled by an administrative law judge unless a request is made for the case to be handled in federal court. If a judge determines discrimination occurred, damages could be awarded to the women or Cao could face civil penalties.
Also charged with sex discrimination in the complaint is Cao’s wife, who co-owns the property where one of the women lived, and two others who own the property where the other woman lived.