Property Managers Can't Discriminate Against Victims of Domestic Violence, Warns HUD
HUD has just issued guidance making it clear that residents who are denied or evicted from housing as a result of domestic violence may have a basis to file a discrimination complaint with HUD under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). HUD’s guidance states that while the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides some protections to victims of abuse who experience housing discrimination, the Fair Housing Act provides authority for HUD to investigate whether the denial or eviction violates the Act based on gender or another federally protected basis.
The FHA prohibits property owners and management agents from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.
Under the guidance, HUD will review claims of discrimination from victims of domestic violence to determine if there is sufficient evidence to apply the FHA to those complaints. For example, a management agent refusing to accept women with a history of domestic violence because they may return to abusive men may violate the Act’s prohibition against gender discrimination. Similarly, a “zero-tolerance” policy for criminal activity, under which an entire household may be evicted for the criminal act of one household member, may have a disparate impact on women because they are the overwhelming majority of domestic violence victims. Evicting women for the violent acts of their abusers may violate the FHA.
Additionally, the guidance provides examples of recent housing discrimination cases and explains how VAWA protects victims of domestic violence from denial, eviction, and termination from public housing and the housing choice voucher program (Section 8), and project-based programs.
HUD’s domestic violence forms, HUD form 91066, “Certification of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence or Stalking,” and HUD form 91067, “Lease Addendum—Violence Against Women and Justice Department Reauthorization Act of 2005,” are available in 14 different languages on HUD’s limited English proficiency Web site (www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/promotionfh/lep.cfm). HUD’s domestic violence guidance is at www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/library/11-domestic-violence-memo-with-attachment.pdf.
PRACTICAL POINTER: VAWA doesn’t limit the authority of a public housing authority, multifamily site owner, or management agent to evict or terminate a resident’s assistance if they can demonstrate an actual and imminent threat to other households or those employed or providing services at the property if that resident is not terminated. However, this exception is limited to those instances when there are no other actions that could reduce or eliminate the threat. Other actions include transferring the victim to a different unit, barring the perpetrator from the property, contacting law enforcement to increase police presence, or developing another plan to keep the property safe, or seeking other legal remedies to prevent the perpetrator from acting on his threat.
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