Explained: Violence Against Women Act Requirements for Federally-Assisted Housing Providers
New resources released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) seek to clarify the housing protections owners and managers of federally-assisted properties must grant to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Under VAWA, applicants and tenants of HUD rental assistance programs (e.g., public housing, housing choice voucher, and project-based Section 8) may not be denied housing, evicted, or have their housing assistance terminated because they have experienced domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Additionally, survivors must be able to access certain remedies, such as requesting an emergency transfer for safety reasons related to the violence.
In February 2023, HUD announced several new resources, including a VAWA website and a special notice, to raise awareness about the law's protections.
"We are making these protections clear on HUD's website, so landlords are aware of our requirements and survivors know their rights," HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said in a statement.
What are VAWA's housing protections?
An individual who has experienced VAWA violence/abuse (e.g., domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking):
cannot be denied admission to or assistance under a HUD-subsidized or assisted unit or program because of the VAWA violence/abuse committed against them;
cannot be evicted from a HUD-subsidized unit nor have their assistance terminated because of the VAWA violence/abuse committed against them;
cannot be denied admission, evicted, or have their assistance terminated for reasons related to the VAWA violence/abuse, such as having an eviction record, criminal history, or bad credit history;
must have the option to stay in their HUD-subsidized housing, even if there has been criminal activity directly related to the VAWA violence/abuse;
can request an emergency transfer from the housing provider for safety reasons related to the VAWA violence/abuse committed against them;
must be allowed to move with continued assistance if the survivor has a Section 8 housing choice voucher;
must be able to provide proof to the housing provider by self-certifying using the HUD VAWA self-certification (only required if the housing provider has conflicting information about the violence/abuse);
must receive HUD's notice of VAWA housing rights and HUD's VAWA self-certification form from the housing provider when they are denied admission to a HUD-subsidized unit or HUD program, when they are admitted to a HUD-subsidized unit or HUD program, and when they receive a notice of eviction from a HUD-subsidized unit or notice of termination from a HUD program;
has a right to strict confidentiality of information regarding their status as a survivor;
can request a lease bifurcation from the owner or landlord to remove the perpetrator from the lease or unit, and if the housing provider bifurcates, it must be done consistent with applicable federal, state, or local laws and the requirements of the HUD housing program;
cannot be coerced, intimated, threatened, or retaliated against by HUD-subsidized housing providers for seeking or exercising VAWA protections; and
has the right to seek law enforcement or emergency assistance for themselves or others without being penalized by local laws or policies for these requests or because they were victims of criminal activity.
Enforcement of VAWA is now managed by HUD's Fair Housing Office
VAWA was enacted in 1994 and has been amended several times, most recently in 2022.
The updated law requires HUD to align the implementation and enforcement of VAWA's housing provisions with the same rights and remedies outlined in the Fair Housing Act.
In January 2023, HUD released a notice setting out the agency's enforcement authority under VAWA through HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO). Individuals who believe their VAWA rights have been violated may now file complaints with FHEO, which will begin investigating such complaints using HUD's existing Fair Housing Act complaint process.
"FHEO has long worked to eradicate discrimination in housing. With this new authority to enforce the housing provisions of VAWA, FHEO is committed to protecting the rights of VAWA survivors and their families," Demetria L. McCain, HUD's principal deputy assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said in a statement.
The updated law also requires HUD to establish a process to review compliance with VAWA's housing provisions.
VAWA resources for housing providers
Visit VAWA's new website to learn more about the law's housing protections and to access free training resources for housing employees.
Interesting in learning more about the signs of human trafficking in multifamily housing? Watch the recording of HAI Group's webinar on the subject.
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