Connecticut landlord to pay $400,000 for tenant harassment

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — A former Connecticut landlord must pay $400,000 to settle a federal lawsuit alleging he violated the Fair Housing Act by sexually harassing and victimizing his female tenants for at least five years, including evicting or threatening to evict those who objected to or refused his sexual advances.

In an agreement reached by the U.S. Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative and announced Thursday, $350,000 of the funds will be deposited in a settlement account to benefit tenants harassed by landlord Richard Bruno. The remaining $50,000 is a federal civil penalty.

“No person should ever have to endure sexual harassment in order to get or keep housing,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.

Bruno, who managed multiple rental properties in New London, is currently serving a 16-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty in 2017 to producing child pornography with a tenant’s minor child in one of the properties.

According to the Justice Department’s lawsuit, first filed in 2019, Bruno made unwelcome sexual advances and comments to female tenants, entered their homes without their consent, took pictures and videos of tenants’ bodies and of their female children, and forced tenants and their female children to view “dungeons” or “sex rooms” in the rental properties.

The settlement also resolves claims against two limited liability corporations that owned the properties, along with Bruno, where the alleged harassment occurred from at least 2011 through 2016.

Bruno will now be permanently prohibited from owning and managing residential rental properties. The property owners must hire an independent property manager, undergo fair housing training and implement nondiscrimination policies and complaint procedures.

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