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06.19.2019

A settlement has been reached on behalf of CNY Fair Housing, Inc. and eight women who alleged that an Oswego, New York landlord demanded sexual favors as a condition of tenancy. A consent decree filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York will—once approved by the court—resolve housing discrimination claims against Douglas Waterbury and two of his property management companies. The settlement provides $400,000 in damages and other financial relief for all nine plaintiffs, and innovative injunctive relief preventing Waterbury from being directly involved in any property management.

The lawsuit, filed in 2017, alleged that Waterbury engaged in a longstanding and pervasive pattern in which he identified prospective tenants with immediate housing needs, gauged their vulnerability (sometimes directly asking “how desperate” they were), and then demanded sexual favors. Those who refused described facing higher rents, additional fees, and other consequences. CNY Fair Housing, a fair housing organization that serves Central and Northern New York, conducted an extensive investigation that uncovered Defendants’ ongoing pattern of behavior that Plaintiffs believe has affected many of the approximately 50 rental properties that he owns. Each of the eight individual plaintiffs described being subjected to demands for sexual favors from Waterbury.

Once approved, the consent decree will enjoin Waterbury from having any contact with the Plaintiffs, and require him to obtain an independent property manager for his properties, as he will be permanently barred from personally managing any rental housing. Waterbury will also be prohibited from having any contact with any tenant or prospective tenant, and will not be allowed to enter any occupied rental property for any purpose. The consent decree provides that CNY Fair Housing must approve the property manager and sexual harassment policies and procedures to be distributed to Defendants’ tenants.  

The Relman, Dane & Colfax litigation team is led by Jia Cobb, Megan Cacace, and Yiyang Wu.  

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