How VAWA Impacts Housing for Survivors and Housing Providers
By: Heather Tabor – North Carolina Licenced Litigation Associate Attorney with Brownlee Whitlow & Praet, LLC
When survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking seek safety and independence, access to secure and stable housing is essential. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) plays a crucial role in addressing the housing needs of victims, providing them with critical protections and resources. This blog explores how VAWA not only provides critical protections and resources for victims but also impacts housing providers.
Under VAWA, housing providers have specific responsibilities and obligations regarding victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. These include:
- Non-Discrimination: Housing providers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals based on their status as victims of domestic violence. This means that housing providers cannot refuse to rent to survivors, terminate their leases, or treat them unfavorably due to their status as victims.
- Lease Termination: VAWA allows victims to terminate their leases early without incurring penalties if they are facing violence or imminent threat. Housing providers must comply with these requests promptly and make necessary accommodations when requested by the victim, such as, changing the locks.
- Emergency Transfers: If a victim requests an emergency transfer to a different unit due to safety concerns, housing providers must facilitate the transfer in a timely manner where a similarly situated home is available.
- Documentation: Housing providers may require victims to provide appropriate documentation, such as court orders or police reports, to substantiate their status as victims. However, it is important to be mindful of the sensitive nature of this information and handle it with utmost confidentiality and care.
While VAWA aims to protect victims and ensure their housing stability, housing providers may face certain challenges and considerations in implementing its provisions:
- Financial Implications: Early lease terminations and emergency transfers may have financial implications for housing providers. They may need to find replacement residents quickly or face potential vacancies, which can impact their rental income.
- Limited Control over Abuser’s Actions: Housing providers may face challenges in controlling the actions of abusers who are not residents.
- Documentation Verification: Validation documentation provided by victims to substantiate their claims of violence can be a challenge for housing providers due to authentication. Balancing the need for proper verification with respect for victims’ privacy and confidentiality is essential.
- Education and Training: Housing providers may require education and training to better understand the dynamics of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. This knowledge can help them provide appropriate support to victims.
While housing providers face certain challenges, VAWA also offers benefits for them:
- Stable Resident Relationships: By providing support and accommodations to victims, housing providers can foster stable and positive resident relationships. Creating an environment of support can contribute to longer-term tenancies and resident satisfaction.
- Collaboration with Community Organizations: VAWA encourages collaboration between housing providers and community organizations that provide services to victims. Building partnerships with these organizations can enhance support networks, access to resources, and referrals for victims in need.
VAWA not only protects victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking but also imposes responsibilities and considerations on housing providers. By understanding and complying with VAWA’s provisions, housing providers can play a crucial role in creating safe spaces for victims and fostering positive resident relationships. Collaboration with community organizations and an awareness of the challenges and benefits can contribute to a comprehensive and supportive approach to housing for victims.
*The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information in this article is for general informational purposes only. Information in this article may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Viewers of this material should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No viewer of this material should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information in this presentation without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation. Use of, and access to, this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Brownlee Whitlow & Praet, PLLC or any contributing law firms. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this article are hereby expressly disclaimed.