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Violence Against Women Act

Violence Against Women Act

 

Notice of Occupancy Rights under the Violence Against Women Act[1]

To all Tenants and Applicants

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  VAWA protections are not only available to women, but are available equally to all individuals regardless of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.[2]  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the Federal agency that oversees that the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) is in compliance with VAWA.  This notice explains your rights under VAWA.  A link to the HUD-approved certification form is provided at the bottom of this notice.  You can fill out this form to show that you are or have been a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and that you wish to use your rights under VAWA.

Protections for Applicants

If you otherwise qualify for assistance under the HCVP, you cannot be denied admission or denied assistance because you are or have been a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  

Protections for Tenants

If you are receiving assistance under the HCVP, you may not be denied assistance, terminated from participation, or be evicted from your rental housing because you are or have been a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  

Also, if you or an affiliated individual of yours is or has been the victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking by a member of your household or any guest, you may not be denied rental assistance or occupancy rights under the HCVP solely on the basis of criminal activity directly relating to that domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Affiliated individual means your spouse, parent, brother, sister, or child, or a person to whom you stand in the place of a parent or guardian (for example, the affiliated individual is in your care, custody, or control); or any individual, tenant, or lawful occupant living in your household.

Removing the Abuser or Perpetrator from the Household

Your landlord may divide (bifurcate) your lease in order to evict the individual or the Public Housing Agency (PHA) can terminate the assistance of the individual who has engaged in criminal activity (the abuser or perpetrator) directly relating to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. 

If your landlord or PHA chooses to remove the abuser or perpetrator, it may not take away the rights of eligible tenants to the unit or otherwise punish the remaining tenants.  If the evicted abuser or perpetrator was the sole tenant to have established eligibility for assistance under the program, your landlord or PHA must allow the tenant who is or has been a victim and other household members to remain in the unit for a period of time, in order to establish eligibility under the program or under another HUD housing program covered by VAWA, or, find alternative housing. 

Moving to Another Unit

Upon your request, the PHA may permit you to move to another unit, subject to the availability of other units, and still keep your assistance.  In order to approve a request, the PHA may ask you to provide documentation that you are requesting to move because of an incidence of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  If the request is a request for emergency transfer, the PHA may ask you to submit a written request or fill out a form where you certify that you meet the criteria for an emergency transfer under VAWA.  The criteria are:

 

(1) You are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  If the PHA does not already have documentation that you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, the PHA may ask you for such documentation, as described in the documentation section below.

(2) You expressly request the emergency transfer.  The PHA may choose to require that you submit a form, or may accept another written or oral request. 

(3) You reasonably believe you are threatened with imminent harm from further violence if you remain in your current unit.  This means you have a reason to fear that if you do not receive a transfer you would suffer violence in the very near future. 

OR

You are a victim of sexual assault and the assault occurred on the premises during the 90-calendar-day period before you request a transfer.  If you are a victim of sexual assault, then in addition to qualifying for an emergency transfer because you reasonably believe you are threatened with imminent harm from further violence if you remain in your unit, you may qualify for an emergency transfer if the sexual assault occurred on the premises of the property from which you are seeking your transfer, and that assault happened within the 90-calendar-day period before you expressly request the transfer.    

 

The PHA will keep confidential requests for emergency transfers by victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and the location of any move by such victims and their families.

The PHA’s emergency transfer plan provides further information on emergency transfers, and it must make a copy of its emergency transfer plan available to you if you ask to see it.

Documenting You Are or Have Been a Victim of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault or Stalking

 

The PHA and your landlord can, but is not required to, ask you to provide documentation to “certify” that you are or have been a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  Such request from the PHA or your landlord must be in writing, and must give you at least 14 business days (Saturdays, Sundays, and Federal holidays do not count) from the day you receive the request to provide the documentation.  The PHA and your landlord may, but does not have to, extend the deadline for the submission of documentation upon your request.

You can provide one of the following to the PHA or your landlord as documentation.  It is your choice which of the following to submit if the PHA or landlord asks you to provide documentation that you are or have been a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

·    A complete HUD-approved certification form given to you by the PHA or your landlord with this notice, that documents an incident of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The form will ask for your name, the date, time, and location of the incident of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and a description of the incident.  The certification form provides for including the name of the abuser or perpetrator if the name of the abuser or perpetrator is known and is safe to provide.

·    A record of a Federal, State, tribal, territorial, or local law enforcement agency, court, or administrative agency that documents the incident of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  Examples of such records include police reports, protective orders, and restraining orders, among others.

·    A statement, which you must sign, along with the signature of an employee, agent, or volunteer of a victim service provider, an attorney, a medical professional or a mental health professional (collectively, “professional”) from whom you sought assistance in addressing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or the effects of abuse, and with the professional selected by you attesting under penalty of perjury that he or she believes that the incident or incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking are grounds for protection.

·    Any other statement or evidence that the PHA or your landlord has agreed to accept.

If you fail or refuse to provide one of these documents within the 14 business days, the PHA or your landlord does not have to provide you with the protections contained in this notice.

If the PHA or your landlord receives conflicting evidence that an incident of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking has been committed (such as certification forms from two or more members of a household each claiming to be a victim and naming one or more of the other petitioning household members as the abuser or perpetrator), the PHA or your landlord has the right to request that you provide third-party documentation within thirty 30 calendar days in order to resolve the conflict.  If you fail or refuse to provide third-party documentation where there is conflicting evidence, the PHA or your landlord does not have to provide you with the protections contained in this notice.

Confidentiality

The PHA and your landlord must keep confidential any information you provide related to the exercise of your rights under VAWA, including the fact that you are exercising your rights under VAWA. 

The PHA and your landlord must not allow any individual administering assistance or other services on their behalf (for example, employees and contractors) to have access to confidential information unless for reasons that specifically call for these individuals to have access to this information under applicable Federal, State, or local law.

The PHA and your landlord must not enter your information into any shared database or disclose your information to any other entity or individual.  The PHA and your landlord, however, may disclose the information provided if:

·    You give written permission to the PHA or your landlord to release the information on a time limited basis.

·    The PHA or your landlord needs to use the information in an eviction or termination proceeding, such as to evict your abuser or perpetrator or terminate your abuser or perpetrator from assistance under this program.

·    A law requires the PHA or your landlord to release the information.

VAWA does not limit the PHA’s or your 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.

Reasons a Tenant Eligible for Occupancy Rights under VAWA May Be Evicted or Assistance May Be Terminated

 

You can be evicted and your assistance can be terminated for serious or repeated lease violations that are not related to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking committed against you.  However, the PHA and your landlord cannot hold tenants who have been victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking to a more demanding set of rules than it applies to tenants who have not been victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  

The protections described in this notice might not apply, and you could be evicted and your assistance terminated, if the PHA or your landlord can demonstrate that not evicting you or terminating your assistance would present a real physical danger that:

1)  Would occur within an immediate time frame, and

2)  Could result in death or serious bodily harm to other tenants or those who work on the property.

If the PHA or your landlord can demonstrate the above, they should only terminate your assistance or evict you if there are no other actions that could be taken to reduce or eliminate the threat.

Other Laws

VAWA does not replace any Federal, State, or local law that provides greater protection for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  You may be entitled to additional housing protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking under other Federal laws, as well as under State and local laws. 

Non-Compliance with the Requirements of this Notice

You may report a covered PHA’s or landlord’s violations of these rights and seek additional assistance, if needed, by contacting or filing a complaint with US Department of Housing & Urban Development, Columbia Public Housing Program Center, 1835 Assembly Street, Columbia, SC  29201 or 803-765-5831.

For Additional Information

You may view a copy of HUD’s final VAWA rule at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-11-16/pdf/2016-25888.pdf.  Additionally, the PHA must make a copy of HUD’s VAWA regulations available to you if you ask to see them. 

For questions regarding VAWA, please contact the SC State Housing Authority at 803-896-8888. 

For help regarding an abusive relationship, you may call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or, for persons with hearing impairments, 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).  You may also contact the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network at http://www.scvan.org/ or 803-750-1200.

For tenants who are or have been victims of stalking seeking help may visit the National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource Center at https://www.victimsofcrime.org/our-programs/stalking-resource-center.

For help regarding sexual assault, you may contact the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network at http://www.scvan.org/ or 803-750-1200.

Victims of stalking seeking help may contact the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network at http://www.scvan.org/ or 803-750-1200.

You may find the Certification form HUD-5382 at this link:
http://www.schousing.com/library/HCV/VAWA%20Certification%20Form%205382.pdf



[1] Despite the name of this law, VAWA protection is available regardless of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

[2] Housing providers cannot discriminate on the basis of any protected characteristic, including race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, disability, or age.  HUD-assisted and HUD-insured housing must be made available to all otherwise eligible individuals regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.