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 2022 Housing Protections

Update July 2023: There have been more recent updates since October 2022 that NHLP has put together in this newsletter. The newsletter highlights the important updates HUD has provided on VAWA 2022, including:

  • A new complaint process for survivors experiencing violations of their VAWA housing rights;
  • A new, more expansive definition of domestic violence to include economic and technological abuse;
  • And a new landing page on HUD’s website that is dedicated to providing information on VAWA to survivors, advocates, and housing providers.

The 2022 VAWA Reauthorization went into effect on October 1, 2022, unless otherwise noted. This newsletter, FAQ, English language brochure, and Spanish language brochure outline the new and existing VAWA protections.

Congress Keeps the Lights On, Reauthorizes VAWA

VAWA 2013 Housing Protections

  • Advocates are encountering courts that believe the housing protections under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) lapsed because of Congress’s failure to reauthorize VAWA in 2018. VAWA’s housing protections do not have sunset provisions and, therefore, did not expire. Advocates can use this template letter to inform courts that VAWA’s housing provisions remain in effect.
  • 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.
    • HUD’s VAWA 2013 forms As part of HUD’s final VAWA 2013 rule, the agency issued four new forms to be used by housing providers. Translated versions of these forms are available on HUD’s website in Armenian, Cambodian, Creole, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese. These forms are:
      • Form HUD-5382 VAWA self-certification form
      • Form HUD-5380 Notice of occupancy rights under VAWA
      • Form HUD-5381 Model emergency transfer plan
      • Form HUD-5383 Emergency transfer request form
    • 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.

COVID-19 Resources

Housing Q&A for Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence During COVID-19 (Nov. 2020)  This resource, presented in a Q&A format, outlines basic information for survivors of domestic and sexual violence who rent their homes and who may have concerns about housing stability during the COVID-19 epidemic. The National Alliance for Safe Housing and NHLP jointly developed this resource.

Protecting Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence During COVID-19: A Q&A for Housing Providers (November 2020)  This resource, published by the National Alliance for Safe Housing (NASH) and the National Housing Law Project (NHLP), provides information for owners and landlords in a Q&A format on how to help tenants/program participants experiencing domestic or sexual violence during the current pandemic.

What Housing Assistance Is Available to Immigrant Survivors During COVID-19?  This new resource from the National Alliance for Safe Housing and the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project describes what help, including emergency shelter and housing assistance, is available for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking during COVID-19. As COVID-19 has exacerbated housing instability among survivors, it is critical survivors and their advocates understand what housing assistance, emergency shelter, and other public benefits they are eligible for.

Tenant Rights of Domestic Violence Survivors During COVID-19: A Resource for Domestic Violence and Housing Advocates (May 2020) En español: Derechos de las inquilinas sobrevivientes de violencia doméstica durante la epidemia de COVID-19: Un recurso para defensores de víctimas de violencia doméstica y de acceso a la vivienda   The current COVID-19 epidemic has created a public health crisis, including increased reports of the incidence of domestic violence in the midst of shelter-in-place orders. Thus, ensuring access to safe, decent, and affordable housing for survivors remains as important as ever. This advocate resource provides a brief overview of the housing rights of survivors in the context of COVID-19.

“Tenants Rights of Survivors During COVID-19” (May 2020)  The NHLP Domestic & Sexual Violence and Housing Newsletter features an article outlining the tenant rights of survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic. The article discusses eviction moratoriums, housing protections for survivors (including the Violence Against Women Act), asserting VAWA housing protections during the pandemic, and addressing lost income during the pandemic.


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.


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

Community Based Advocates Toolkit: A Resource Guide for Professionals Helping Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Stalking and Dating Violence Survivors (2019)

This Toolkit helps survivor advocates and homeless shelter and housing program advocates understand the basic housing rights of survivors and provide information to help survivors get assistance accessing their housing rights. The scenarios in the Toolkit are directly connected to laws that provide housing protections for survivors. This Toolkit also provides overviews of the laws that may apply, and offers sample demand letters that advocates and survivors can use to advocate for their rights.

State Law Compendium: Housing Rights of Domestic Violence Survivors (2017)

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 December 2017. If you have questions or comments, please contact Kate Walz at

Update September 2020: Please note that there have been more recent updates since December 2017 that NHLP is currently working to incorporate into the Compendium publication. States with updates to their housing protections for survivors include Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. If you are a housing advocate who would like the list of updated protections, please email

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.

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 Renee Williams at 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 Renee Williams at to obtain the Appendices.

National Resource Packets

This brief question-and-answer resource provides advocates with an introduction to the topic of nuisance and crime-free ordinances, and how such ordinances can negatively affect survivors of domestic violence and other populations.
A Q & A brochure in English and Spanish 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This toolkit outlines steps advocates can take to improve local public housing agency policies that affect survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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 Survivors HUD, “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 Ordinances HUD, “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 Housing HUD, “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.
  • Equal Access to Housing HUD, “Equal Access in Accordance With an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs,” Final Rule, 81 Fed. Reg. 64,763 (Sep. 21, 2016)HUD issued a regulation that amends the agency’s 2012 Equal Access Rule, which prohibits housing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) persons and requires equal access to HUD-funded and HUD-insured programs regardless of an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. The 2016 regulation specifies obligations under the Equal Access Rule for programs funded by HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD), which includes the Emergency Solutions Grants and the Continuum of Care programs. For a summary, see NHLP’s January-March 2017 newsletter.

Cases and Conciliations

Dickinson v. Zanesville, 975 F.Supp.2d 863 (S.D. Ohio 2013)
The court found that a domestic violence survivor had established a prima facie case for sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) against a housing authority for allegedly forcing her to leave her public housing unit due to instances of domestic violence committed against her and subsequently providing negative references to the survivor’s prospective landlords. The court noted from the factual allegations that the housing authority was aware that the survivor experienced domestic abuse; therefore, punishing her for her abuser’s actions and ignoring its obligations under VAWA could give rise to a sex discrimination claim under the FHA. The court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss.
Sanders v. Sellers-Earnest, 768 F.Supp.2d 1180 (M.D. Fla. 2010)
A Section 8 voucher holder received a termination notice based on an unauthorized occupant in her unit. At the informal hearing, the housing authority presented the alleged occupant’s criminal report affidavit, a domestic violence incident report from the city police department, and a county sheriff’s office arrest inquiry. In the alleged occupant’s criminal report affidavit, he told the arresting officer that he and the tenant were dating and lived together. Although the tenant stated that the alleged occupant never resided in her unit and, instead, resided with his mother, the hearing officer upheld the decision to terminate the tenant’s housing assistance. The tenant sued the housing authority for violating her procedural rights guaranteed by 24 C.F.R. § 982.555(e)(5)-(6) and her due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment because the hearing officer relied solely on unreliable hearsay – the police reports. The court acknowledged that the hearing officer’s description of the contents of the police reports was accurate, and the police officers would have no reason to inaccurately report what the alleged occupant told them. However, the court indicated that it had no way to assess the reliability of the alleged occupant’s assertions. The tenant also did not have authority to subpoena the alleged occupant or the reporting officers for the informal hearing. As a result, the tenant was not afforded an opportunity to confront and cross examine the alleged occupant or the police officers. Therefore, the court concluded that the police reports did not constitute sufficient evidence that the tenant allowed the alleged occupant to reside in her unit. The court granted the tenant’s motion for a preliminary injunction and ordered the housing authority to reinstate her Section 8 benefits and eligibility, retroactive to the date of termination.
Bouley v. Young-Sabourin, 394 F.Supp.2d 675 (D. Vt. 2005)
A tenant was evicted after her husband assaulted her. The tenant alleged that the landlord evicted her because she was a victim of domestic violence, and that this constituted sex discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The court denied the landlord’s motion for summary judgment.
Beacon Residential Management, LP v. Pipkin, 81 N.E.3d 714 (Mass. 2017)
The Massachusetts Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision by holding that a domestic violence survivor could intervene on behalf of her minor children in a proceeding to evict them from their project-based Section 8 unit, after the abuser who was head of household left the family. The court found that even though the survivor was not named on the lease or the subsidy (despite attempts to add herself), she still had an interest in the property in part because she was an affiliated individual of her children who were also survivors and protected by VAWA.
Johnson v. Palumbo, 60 N.Y.S.3d 472 (N.Y. App. Div., 2d Dept. 2017)
The court reversed a domestic violence survivor’s Section 8 voucher termination because VAWA protections applied and the survivor was not required to add to the household her abuser, who had been illegally residing in the unit without the survivor’s permission. The court explains in part that requiring the survivor to add the abuser to the unit would have provided the perpetrator greater control over her and furthered the abuse.
Metro North Owners, LLC v. Thorpe, 870 N.Y.S.2d 768 (N.Y.C. Civ. Ct. 2008)
Landlord sought to evict Section 8 tenant on the grounds that she stabbed her partner during a domestic dispute. The tenant submitted police reports and a restraining order showing that she was the victim of domestic violence, along with evidence that the district attorney’s office declined to prosecute her for the alleged stabbing. The court found that the tenant was the victim of domestic violence, and that VAWA precluded the landlord from evicting her.
Meister v. Kansas City, Kansas Hous. Auth., 2011 WL 765887 (D. Kan. Feb. 25, 2011)
A housing authority terminated a Section 8 tenant’s voucher due to damages to her unit. The tenant alleged that the damages occurred as part of domestic violence committed against her. The tenant filed suit against the housing authority, alleging that the termination of her voucher violated VAWA and constituted sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. The housing authority filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court denied. The court found that there was a material issue of fact as to whether the housing authority knew that the damage to the tenant’s unit was caused by domestic violence. The court declined to rule whether the tenant had a right of action, enforceable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, pursuant to the provisions of VAWA.
Fuentes v. Revere Hous. Auth. (Mass. App. Ct. Nov. 8, 2013)
The Revere Housing Authority (RHA) terminated a domestic violence survivor’s Section 8 voucher for nonpayment of rent and security deposit. At the informal hearing, the survivor testified that she was unable to make payments because the father of her younger children routinely threatened her if she did not give him money. In addition, she had been recently injured in a car accident and was unable to work. The appellate court noted that the original officer had failed to indicate in his decision whether he had exercised his discretionary authority under voucher regulations to consider mitigating factors such as the survivor’s account of domestic violence. Therefore, the appellate court vacated the decisions of the lower court and the RHA, further remanding the case to the RHA for a rehearing before a new hearing officer with instructions to provide the plaintiff with an opportunity to produce evidence of mitigating circumstances relevant to the termination and to indicate in a new ruling how and the basis on which the hearing officer chose to exercise his discretion.
The housing authority initiated termination proceedings against a Section 8 voucher tenant for having an unauthorized occupant. At the informal hearing, the voucher tenant testified that this person had been physically violent toward her on several occasions, and introduced evidence demonstrating that he lived at another address. Despite this, her assistance was terminated. The appellate court reversed the termination because the hearing officer disregarded the tenant’s evidence and mitigating circumstances, including the fact that she was the victim of domestic violence perpetrated by the alleged unauthorized occupant.
A domestic violence survivor sought a preliminary injunction precluding the owner and managers of her apartment building from filing an unlawful detainer action against her until the merits of her claims were determined. After the survivor’s partner assaulted her in the unit, the owners notified her that they had increased her rent and security deposit and would be charging her for damages to the unit caused by the abuser. The court granted the preliminary injunction because the survivor would likely prevail on the claim that the defendants illegally increased her rent because of her status as a survivor; her fear of the eviction was well-grounded; and an eviction action would cause actual and substantial injury to her by damaging her ability to secure rental housing elsewhere.
Maiden agreed to vacate a public housing unit and not allow her children’s father, Glover, to reside in the unit. Unbeknownst to the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), Glover and the children lived in the unit since 2008. Glover sought to vacate Maiden’s agreement on the grounds that because he had legal custody of the children and he was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of Maiden, BHA was legally obligated to recognize him as the lawful tenant of the unit and offer him the opportunity to execute a BHA lease. BHA determined Glover was eligible for a public housing unit under VAWA. However, Glover inexplicably refused to sign a lease for a similar unit offered to him by BHA. Thus, the court deemed that the Maiden eviction action would be moot pending order or direction from the Supreme Judicial Court.
An owner sought to evict a domestic violence survivor because of over $4,000 worth of property damages to the unit caused by the abuser and failure to pay rent for two months. The court held that federal laws protected the survivor from eviction for the damage caused by the abuser.
The court denied the Tennessee Housing Development Agency’s (THDA) request to terminate a domestic abuse survivor’s Section 8 voucher. THDA claimed the plaintiff violated her obligations under the Housing Choice Voucher Program because there were significant damages made to her unit. The court held that because the damage was created by a third party during a domestic violence act committed against the plaintiff, she was not responsible for repairing the damages. Further, the court held that the existence of damage to the unit is not by itself grounds for termination of the voucher since the tenant must be given an opportunity to repair the damages.
In April 2016, the ACLU reached a settlement agreement with the City of Surprise, Arizona requiring Surprise to repeal their nuisance ordinance and agree not to adopt an ordinance or policy that penalizes or punishes tenants, residents, or landlords for calls for police service, or penalizes or punishes them for criminal activity of which they are the victims. The agreement and a subsequent court order provided for over $200,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.
NHLP signed onto this amicus brief written by DV LEAP and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law on behalf of a domestic violence survivor whose Section 8 voucher had been terminated by a housing authority because her abuser was an unauthorized occupant in her unit. The brief discusses how the perpetrator’s unauthorized occupancy was part of the abuse and why the survivor could not be held responsible for these abusive actions. Therefore, the survivor’s voucher should not have been terminated under VAWA. The case settled before the appellate court reached a decision.
HUD filed a fair housing complaint against the City of Berlin alleging that the City’s ordinance requiring landlords to evict tenants cited three or more times for “disorderly behavior” was illegally discriminatory as it had a disproportionate effect on women who were domestic violence survivors. The HUD Conciliation Agreement required the City to amend the ordinance to exempt incidents where the resident is a victim of domestic violence.
Survivor and New England Family Housing Management Organization & Survivor and Michael Warren (HUD Conciliation Agreements 2014)
A Section 8 voucher holder who was a domestic violence survivor alleged that property owners and landlords violated the Fair Housing Act and VAWA when they refused to rent to her because of calls she made to the police related to domestic violence. The survivor entered into HUD Conciliation Agreements with the current owner and landlord and a prospective landlord. The agreements required in part that the owners and managers revise their standard leases to comply with VAWA, attend fair housing and VAWA trainings, and pay the survivor monetary damages.
A domestic abuse survivor alleged that her landlord violated the Fair Housing Act on the basis of sex and familial status by refusing to rent her an apartment because she failed to provide full social security numbers of her minor children due to domestic violence-related safety concerns. The parties entered into a HUD Conciliation Agreement under which the landlord had to revise the housing policy to prohibit discrimination against domestic abuse survivors, pay monetary damages to the plaintiff, and permit the survivor to provide truncated social security numbers of her children when reapplying for housing.
A Section 8 voucher holder filed a complaint with HUD alleging that Southgate Apartments violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) by refusing to renew her lease and initiating an eviction action against her after she and her son were stabbed by her then boyfriend. HUD charged the owner and manager with violating the FHA by discriminating against the survivor.
A domestic violence survivor sued the Borough of Norristown challenging an ordinance that penalized landlords with tenants who called the police too many times during a certain period. The ordinance did not have an exception for domestic violence survivors seeking police protection from their abusers. As part of the private settlement agreement and HUD Conciliation Agreement, Norristown repealed the ordinance, paid the plaintiff damages, and created an education and outreach program, including a brochure regarding rights under the Fair Housing Act. Further, the agreement mandated that Norristown require certain town officials and employees to undergo fair housing training with an emphasis in sex and disability discrimination.
Alvera v. Creekside Village Apartments (HUD Reasonable Cause Finding and Charge of Discrimination 2001)
A management company sought to evict a tenant under a “zero tolerance for violence” policy because her husband had assaulted her. HUD found that a policy of evicting innocent victims of domestic violence because of that violence has a disproportionate impact on women, and found reasonable cause to believe that the tenant had been discriminated against because of her sex. HUD further issued a charge of discrimination against the property managers and owners.

Other Resources

The website for the Domestic Violence and Housing Technical Assistance Consortium that provides resources and tools to advance work at the intersection of domestic violence, sexual assault, homelessness, and housing.

The ACLU Women’s Rights Project website contains litigation documents, fact sheets and other materials regarding survivors’ housing rights.

Legal Momentum’s website contains a variety of materials on survivors’ housing rights, including statistics and litigation documents.

National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty’s website contains policy documents, reports and information on state law housing protections for survivors of domestic violence.

NNEDV’s Housing Project supports transitional housing programs across the country, through training, program development, and policy advocacy. This website includes a toolkit for transitional housing providers.

This website contains a number of fact sheets, statistics, reports, and advocates’ guides on the intersection between housing, homelessness, and sexual violence.