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St. Louis landlord charged with sexually harassing tenant

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ST. LOUIS — The nation’s housing officials have issued charges against a landlord with more than a dozen local properties.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Friday charged Nedzad Ukejnovic with discrimination for allegedly sexually harassing female tenants by requesting sexual favors in exchange for reduced rent, and discriminatory statements based on sex.

“This case’s ‘single mom falls behind on rent’ story is real common with our sexual harassment cases,” Glenn Burleigh, spokesman for the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council, or EHOC, said by text message.

EHOC contracts with HUD under the Fair Housing Initiative Program, which provides funding to housing organizations. Under the program, the local organizations do the investigative groundwork to build a case, then HUD may issue charges.

In July 2018, Ukejnovic began complimenting a tenant, whose name is redacted in the HUD release, and commenting on her physical appearance after her husband had moved out, the charge says. That month, she was only able to make partial rent.

Within a week, and throughout the month, the tenant said, the landlord sent requests for sexual favors or sexually explicit pictures in exchange for reduced rent or late payment.

The tenant did not comply, but said Ukejnovic threatened to evict her in early August. Ukejnovic persisted, and the tenant sent three photos to him.

Sending the photos and knowing he had possession of them caused the tenant mental distress, the complaint said, in addition to other additional stresses she and her children suffered, including humiliation, anxiety and trauma.

HUD is asking for unspecified monetary damages for the tenant, as well as assessment of a civil penalty against Ukejnovic for each of four violations of the Fair Housing Act. HUD is also asking that monetary damages be paid to the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council.

The charge will be heard by a federal administrative law judge, or in federal district court, according to a HUD news release.

Ukejnovic, who answered a phone call from a reporter Monday, referred questions to his lawyer, Michael Hamlin of St. Louis-based Nichols Lang & Hamlin. Hamlin could not be reached for comment.

 

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Janelle O'Dea is a data specialist and reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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