Violence Against Women Act
Notice to Housing Choice Voucher Applicants and Tenants Regarding
the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
The “Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005” (Public Law 109-162) reauthorized and expanded the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), originally enacted in 1994, to apply to HUD rental assistance program applicants and participants and landlords of property under a Housing Assistance Payment Contract with a Housing Authority. This notice explains your rights under VAWA.
Protections for Victims
If you are eligible for a Section 8 voucher, the housing authority cannot deny you rental assistance solely because you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.
You cannot be terminated from the Section 8 program or evicted based on acts or threats of violence committed against you. Also, criminal acts directly related to the domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking that are caused by a member of your household or a guest can’t be the reason for evicting you or terminating your rental assistance if you were the victim of the abuse.
Reasons You Can Be Evicted
You can be evicted and your rental assistance can be terminated if the housing authority or your landlord can show there is an actual and imminent (immediate) threat to other tenants or employees at the property if you remain in your housing. Also, you can be evicted and your rental assistance can be terminated for serious or repeated lease violations that are not related to the domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking committed against you. The housing authority and your landlord cannot hold you to a more demanding set of rules than it applies to other tenants.
Evicting the Abuser from the Household
Your landlord may split the lease to evict a tenant who has committed criminal acts of violence against family members or others, while allowing the victim and other household members to stay in the assisted unit. Also, the housing authority can terminate the abuser’s Section 8 rental assistance while allowing you to continue to receive assistance. If the landlord or housing authority chooses to remove the abuser, it may not take away the remaining tenants’ rights to the unit or otherwise punish the remaining tenants. In removing the abuser from the household, your landlord must follow federal, state, and local eviction procedures.
Moving to Protect Your Safety
The housing authority may permit you to move and still keep your rental assistance, even if your current lease has not yet expired. The housing authority may require you to be current on your rent or other obligations in the housing choice voucher program and may ask you to provide proof that you are moving because of incidences of abuse.
Proving That You Are a Victim
The housing authority and your landlord can ask you to prove or “certify” that you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking. You will be given at least 14 business days (i.e. Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays do not count) to provide this proof. The housing authority and your landlord are free to extend the deadline.
Ways you can prove that you are a victim:
- Complete the certification form. The form will ask for your name, the name of your abuser, the abuser’s relationship to you, the date, time, and location of the incident of violence, and a description of the violence.
- Provide a statement from a victim service provider, attorney or medical professional who has helped you address incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking. The professional must state that he or she believes that the incidents of abuse are real. Both you and the professional must sign the statement, and both of you must state that you are signing “under penalty of perjury.”
- Provide a police or court record, such as a protective order.
If you fail to provide one of these documents within the required time, the landlord may evict you, and the housing authority may terminate your rental assistance.
The housing authority and your landlord must keep confidential any information you provide about the violence against you, unless you give written permission to release the information, your landlord needs to use the information in an eviction proceeding (such as to evict your abuser) or a law requires the release of information.
If release of the information would put your safety at risk, you should inform the housing authority and your landlord.
VAWA and Other Laws
VAWA does not limit the housing authority or landlord’s duty to honor court orders about access to or control of the property. This includes orders issued to protect a victim and orders dividing property among household members in cases where a family breaks up.
VAWA does not replace any federal, state, or local law that provides greater protection for victims of domestic violence, dating violence or stalking.
For Additional Information
For help and advice on escaping an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
For purposes of determining whether a tenant may be covered by VAWA, the following list of definitions applies:
VAWA defines domestic violence to include felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by any of the following:
- A current or former spouse of the victim
- A person with whom the victim shares a child in common
- A person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse
- A person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies
- Any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction
VAWA defines dating violence as violence committed by a person (1) who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim AND (2) where the existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on a consideration of the following factors:
- The length of the relationship
- The type of relationship
- The frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship
VAWA defines stalking as (A)(i) to follow, pursue, or repeatedly commit acts with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person OR (ii) to place under surveillance with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person AND (B) in the course of, or as a result of, such following, pursuit, surveillance, or repeatedly committed acts, to place a person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to, or to cause substantial emotional harm to (i) that person, (ii) a member of the immediate family of that person, or (iii) the spouse or intimate partner of that person.