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- About NHLP
Housing Protections for Survivors of Violence
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. 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
* Translation services provided by Transpanish
Trainings and Webinars
Materials and recordings from NHLP's past trainings are available here.
NHLP publishes a newsletter on a variety of current housing issues that affect survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Past issues of the newsletter are available here.
Please note that some of the materials below have yet to be updated according to the new housing provisions under the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013). For a summary of the key housing protections under VAWA 2013, see this article. If you have any questions, please contact Karlo Ng at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
The Appendices to the Manual contain a number of sample advocacy documents, including letters, pleadings, and housing policies. Access to the Appendices is limited to legal services programs and Office on Violence against Women grantees. These programs should contact Karlo Ng at email@example.com to obtain the Appendices.
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.
The Appendices to the Manual contains a number of sample advocacy documents, including letters, pleadings, and housing policies. Access to the Appendices is limited to legal services programs and Office on Violence against Women grantees. These programs should contact Karlo Ng at firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain the Appendices.
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.
Note: This packet was not developed as part of the NHLP's grant award from the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice.
This packet includes Q & A brochures for survivors regarding VAWA 2013's housing protections in English and Spanish. It also has a more detailed Q & A for advocates regarding the safeguards.
Advocates are encouraged to reproduce and distribute the English and Spanish brochures for survivors, and there is room on the brochures 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.
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.
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.
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.
This memorandum from HUD’s office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity addresses general questions about sexual harassment in housing under the Fair Housing Act.
HUD’s Public Housing Occupancy Guidebook includes a chapter on domestic violence. This document contains helpful language encouraging housing authorities to adopt domestic violence preferences and to accept a broad range of evidence as proof of domestic violence.
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.
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.
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.
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.