Protections for Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence

Survivors of domestic and sexual violence face a number of serious housing problems related to the acts of violence committed against them. In reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, Congress recognized that families are being discriminated against, denied access to, and even evicted from housing because of their status as survivors. Legal services providers have reported hundreds of cases where tenants were evicted because of acts of domestic and sexual violence committed against them. Focusing on defending survivors’ rights to maintain rental housing is particularly crucial because women living in rental housing experience domestic violence at three times the rate of women who own their homes. Further, domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness among survivors and their families.

NHLP is a leading national expert on the housing rights of survivors of domestic and sexual violence. NHLP provides free technical assistance and training to Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) grantees and subgrantees as well as legal aid attorneys. NHLP has provided numerous trainings and extensive technical assistance on the housing provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Fair Housing Act, and state law housing protections for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Some of the services we offer OVW grantees include:

  • Technical assistance via phone or email regarding survivors’ housing protections
  • Web-based and conference-call trainings on common housing issues that survivors face
  • Information and materials, such as fact sheets, advocacy materials, and training curricula

VAWA 2013’s Housing Protections

  • VAWA 2013’s housing statute – 34 U.S.C. § 12491
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
    • HUD’s final rule on VAWA 2013
      In November 2016, HUD published final regulations implementing VAWA 2013’s housing protections. This rule applies to the HUD programs covered by VAWA 2013. In December 2016, HUD issued corrections to the final rule.In March 2017, NHLP conducted a and provided materials highlighting the key provisions of this rule as well as circulated a Know Your Rights brochure for survivors.
    • HUD notices implementing VAWA 2013
      In May and June 2017, HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing and Office of Housing respectively issued notices (PIH-2017-08 (HA) and H 2017-05) for public housing authorities and owners/managers on implementing the requirements of VAWA 2013. The notices provide important guidance and clarification regarding key VAWA 2013 protections and remedies, including emergency transfers, lease bifurcations, and confidentiality.
    • Related advocacy materials
      On June 1, 2015, NHLP, as part of the National VAWA Housing Working Group, submitted detailed comments to HUD on the agency’s proposed rule implementing VAWA 2013.
    • USDA Rural Development (RD)
      • In this updated administrative notice, RD AN No. 4814 (1944-N), RD informs State Directors, Program Directors, Borrowers, and Management Agents of the agency’s policies on implementing and administering VAWA 2013. For a summary of the notice’s key points, see NHLP’s Spring-Summer 2017 newsletter.
      • Related advocacy materials
        On July 10, 2017, NHLP sent a letter to RD requesting amendments to RD AN No. 4814 (1944-N) and the promulgation of regulations to properly implement VAWA 2013.

Webinars

NHLP provides a number of webinars and in-person trainings on matters impacting the housing rights of survivors. Materials and recordings from past trainings are archived.

Newsletters

NHLP publishes a newsletter on a variety of current housing issues that affect survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Manuals, Guidebooks, and Reports

Protections Delayed: State Housing Finance Agency Compliance with the Violence Against Women Act (2017)

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides survivors of domestic and sexual violence with strong housing protections and prohibits housing providers from using incidents of violence as grounds for evicting the survivor. Even though the 2013 VAWA reauthorization explicitly required that Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) providers comply with VAWA, the Department of the Treasury has issued no regulations or guidance on implementation for the LIHTC program. This new report finds that the inaction of the part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury has led to significant state-by-state variation in the implementation of VAWA protections in the LIHTC program. This, in turn, has a substantial impact on level of protection afforded to

Guidebook on Consumer & Economic Civil Legal Advocacy for Survivors (2017)

Produced in partnership with a cadre of on-the-ground advocates, attorneys, and organizational partnerships, the Center for Survivor Agency & Justice’s Guidebook offers concrete consumer and economic civil legal remedies, as well as nonlegal advocacy strategies, through the lens of survivor centered advocacy – rooted in the experiences of survivors who are living in poverty. The publication includes a chapter by NHLP on the housing protections of domestic and sexual violence survivors.

State Law Compendium: Housing Rights of Domestic Violence Survivors (2016)

This Compendium compiles state and local laws that affect domestic violence survivors’ housing rights. It is designed to serve as a starting point for advocates seeking to conduct research on the housing protections that their state and local laws offer for domestic violence survivors. Examples of such protections include early lease termination provisions for domestic violence survivors, lock change laws, and affirmative defenses for evictions related to acts of domestic violence committed against a tenant.

The updated compendium includes laws enacted as of October 2016. If you have questions or comments, please contact Karlo Ng at kng@nhlp.org.

Maintaining Safe and Stable Housing for Domestic Violence Survivors (2012)

This Manual focuses on the rights of survivors who are facing loss of housing, who need to improve the safety of their housing, or who need to relocate. Some of the topics addressed include changing the locks; breaking the lease; defending against evictions and subsidy terminations; seeking remedies for housing discrimination; reasonable accommodations for survivors with disabilities; and the housing protections of the Violence Against Women Act. (This manual has not been updated to reflect the Violence Against Women Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013). For a summary of VAWA 2013’s housing protections, see this article.)

Access to the Appendices of the Manual is limited to legal services programs and Office on Violence against Women grantees. These programs should contact Karlo Ng at kng@nhlp.org to obtain the Appendices.

Assisting Survivors of Domestic Violence in Applying for Housing (2010)

This Manual provides a comprehensive review of domestic violence survivors’ rights in applying for housing. It includes information on the subsidized housing application process, common barriers to housing that survivors face, and strategies for challenging denials of housing. (This manual has not been updated to reflect the Violence Against Women Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013). For a summary of VAWA 2013’s housing protections, see this article.)

Access to the Appendices of the Manual is limited to legal services programs and Office on Violence against Women grantees. These programs should contact Karlo Ng at kng@nhlp.org to obtain the Appendices.

 

National Resource Packets

VAWA 2013 Know Your Rights Brochure (2017)

A Q & A brochure for survivors regarding VAWA 2013’s housing protections. Advocates are encouraged to reproduce and distribute the brochure for survivors, and there is room on the brochure to add a label with the agency’s contact information.

Survivors Have Rights and Protections to Move with a Voucher (2016)

This resource discusses some of the unique issues, policies and procedures that apply to Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holders who are survivors and seek to move with continued assistance and portability. Topics covered include when a family may move; when a housing authority can deny or delay granting a request to move; what a family should consider before moving; the timing of moves; and the housing authority’s responsibilities regarding portability.

Federal Housing Rights of Survivors with Limited English Proficiency (2015)

Public housing authorities (PHAs) and other federally-assisted housing providers have obligations under the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013), Title VI of the Civil Rights of 1964, and other federal legal authorities to ensure that LEP individuals have access to safe, affordable, and decent housing. This information packet gives an overview of the federal housing rights of LEP individuals and discusses how these protections apply to survivors.

The Role of State Housing Agencies in Improving Survivors’ Access to and Retention of LIHTC Housing (2014)

This packet is designed to provide advocates with an overview of the Qualified Allocation Plan process for Low Income Housing Tax Credit housing and the public participation process that can improve a state’s policies governing this housing program that affect survivors. It includes sample documents that can be used in working with state agencies.

Domestic Violence and Fair Housing Act Resource Packet (2013)

This toolkit provides advocates with an overview of the Fair Housing Act and strategies that advocates have used to bring fair housing claims on behalf of domestic violence survivors.

Housing Authority Plan Resource Packet (2013)

This toolkit outlines steps advocates can take to improve local public housing agency policies that affect survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Survivors with Criminal Records: What You Should Know When Applying for Federally Subsidized Housing (2013)

This Q & A, available in English and Spanish, has basic information for survivors that have a criminal record and are applying for federally subsidized housing. Issues covered include matters related to permanent and temporary bars from certain housing programs; housing denials due to criminal records, criminal convictions and arrests; and improving your chances of being admitted.

Introductory Outline on Sexual Harassment in Housing (2010)

Note: This outline was not developed as part of NHLP’s grant award from the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice Landlords are often in a position of power over whom they rent to and under what circumstances. As a result of this power imbalance, many tenants are subjected to sexual harassment by housing providers and their agents. Examples of such harassment include requesting sexual favors in exchange for rent, making sexually derogatory comments, or constantly leering and staring at a tenant or applicant. When the harassment disrupts the tenant’s right to enjoy his or her housing, federal fair housing laws as well as state and local laws may protect the tenant. This outline explains what statutes exist to protect tenants and how to enforce them.

Sexual Harassment and Housing Brochure (2010)

This brochure is available in English and Spanish. It contains basic information on the rights and options of tenants who have experienced sexual harassment in rental housing.

California Resource Packets

Note: The resources in this section were not developed as part of NHLP’s grant award from the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice.

California Early Lease Termination Toolkit (2016)

California Civil Code § 1946.7 permits survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, stalking, or elder/dependent adult abuse to end their leases early if they provide their landlords with a written 14-day notice and a restraining order, police report, or third-party documentation from certain professionals. The toolkit contains:

• Q & A brochures for survivors in English and Spanish;
• A Q & A for advocates;
• A sample 14-day notice that survivors can use to end their leases;
• A template for a qualified third party statement;
• Safety planning concerns that should be addressed when using the laws;
• The text of Civil Code § 1946.7.

California Eviction Defense Packet (2014)

California Code of Civil Procedure § 1161.3 prohibits survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, stalking, or elder/dependent adult abuse from being evicted because of the abuse committed against them. This packet includes Q & A brochures for survivors in English and Spanish and a Q & A for advocates.

California Lock Changes Packet (2014)

California Civil Code §§ 1941.5 and 1941.6 require landlords to change locks within 24 hours for tenants who are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking and have a restraining order or a police report. This packet contains Q & A brochures for survivors in English and Spanish and a Q & A for advocates.

California Sexual Harassment and Housing Brochure and Community Resources (2010)

These brochures, available in English and Spanish, are designed for tenants and include basic information about protections against sexual harassment in housing.

HUD Memos and Guidance

  • Housing Discrimination against Domestic Violence SurvivorsHUD, “Assessing Claims of Housing Discrimination against Victims of Domestic Violence under the Fair Housing Act (FHAct) and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)” (Feb. 9, 2011)

    This memo from HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity provides guidance to HUD staff on assessing claims by domestic violence victims of housing discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. According to HUD, claims of discrimination against domestic violence victims are generally based on sex, but may also involve other protected classes such as race or national origin. The memo discusses the legal theories behind these claims and provides examples of cases involving alleged housing discrimination against domestic violence victims.
  • Nuisance and Crime-free OrdinancesHUD, “Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Enforcement of Local Nuisance and Crime-Free Housing Ordinances Against Victims of Domestic Violence, Other Crime Victims, and Others Who Require Police or Emergency Services” (Sep. 13, 2016)This guidance examines how the enforcement of nuisance ordinances and crime-free housing ordinances could violate the Fair Housing Act. Since the overwhelming majority of domestic violence survivors are women, any policies or practices that affect survivors may constitute sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. This HUD guidance focuses on the effect that the enforcement of nuisance and crime-free housing ordinances may have on survivors of domestic violence. For a summary, see NHLP’s January-March 2017 newsletter.In November 2016, several divisions of the Department of Justice – Office on Violence Against Women, the Office on Community Oriented Policing Services, and the Office of Justice Programs – issued a joint statement about the HUD guidance on nuisance and crime-free ordinances. The joint statement notes that ordinances that include exceptions for survivors calling the police may still negatively affect survivors because incidents of domestic violence may be mischaracterized as excessive noise or property damage. The statement calls upon local governments and law enforcement agencies to be aware of such concerns when enforcing existing ordinances, or when considering whether to pass such ordinances, “particularly when they affect vulnerable populations, such as victims of domestic violence or people with disabilities.”
  • Harassment in HousingHUD, “Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices Under the Fair Housing Act,” Final Rule, 81 Fed. Reg. 63,054 (Sep. 14, 2016)HUD issued a final regulation about harassment in housing. The regulation states that harassment can violate the Fair Housing Act. Importantly, the regulation covers sexual harassment, as well as harassment directed at a person or family because of race, color, national origin, disability, religion, or familial status. The regulation defines two types of harassment: “quid pro quo” harassment and “hostile environment” harassment. For a summary, see NHLP’s January-March 2017 newsletter.HUD, “Questions and Answers on Sexual Harassment under the Fair Housing Act” (Nov. 17, 2008)

    This 2008 memorandum from HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity addresses general questions about sexual harassment in housing under the Fair Housing Act.

  • Use of Criminal Records

    HUD, “Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Transactions” (Apr. 4, 2016)This guidance explains that the use of criminal history in housing decisions can have a disproportionate effect on certain groups, which may violate the Fair Housing Act, even in the absence of an intent to discriminate. Housing providers cannot justify a policy of using criminal history in housing decisions based on generalizations or stereotypes about persons with criminal backgrounds. Instead, a housing provider must be able to demonstrate that its use of criminal history in housing decisions “actually assists in protecting resident safety and/or property.” Importantly, the guidance explains that an arrest alone (in the absence of a conviction) is not sufficient to prove that an individual violated the law. For a summary, see NHLP’s January-March 2017 newsletter.
  • VAWA Self-petitioners and Immigrant Access HUD, “Eligibility of Battered Noncitizen Self-Petitioners for Financial Assistance Under Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980” (Dec. 15, 2016)This memo confirms the eligibility of VAWA self-petitioners for federal housing programs subject to immigration restrictions under Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act. These programs include the public housing, Housing Choice Voucher, and project-based Section 8 programs.HUD Notice PIH 2017-02 (HA), Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Self-Petitioner Verification Procedures (Jan. 19, 2017)This notice details how public housing authorities can verify VAWA self-petitioners’ immigration status using the DHS Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system.DOJ, HHS & HUD, Joint Letter on Immigrant Access to Programs to Protect Life or Safety (Aug. 5, 2016)

    This joint letter is addressed to recipients of federal financial assistance to remind them that they may not withhold services that are necessary to protect life or safety based on the immigration status of the person seeking such services. The letter reiterates long-standing federal policy that recipients of federal funds may not deny immigrants critical, lifesaving services, such as emergency shelter, short-term housing assistance, counseling, and intervention programs. For a summary, see NHLP’s January-March 2017 newsletter.

    HUD, The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 and HUD’s Homeless Assistance Programs (Aug. 16, 2016)

    HUD’s SNAPS office published its own fact sheet with guidance about exceptions to immigration restrictions for assistance funded through the Continuum of Care and Emergency Solutions Grants programs. The fact sheet states that HUD has determined these programs do not have immigration restrictions: Street Outreach Services; Emergency Shelter; Safe Haven; and Rapid Re-Housing. The fact sheet also notes that transitional housing where the HUD funding recipient or sub-recipient owns or leases the building used to provide housing is exempt from immigration restrictions. However, transitional housing programs that provide rental assistance payments are subject to immigration restrictions because rental assistance is provided on the basis of income. For a summary, see NHLP’s Spring-Summer 2017 newsletter.

    For more information on these topics, see NHLP’s webinar and materials on immigrant access to federally assisted programs.