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National Domestic Violence Awareness Month generates new HUD ruling landlord helpNew, stronger affordable housing regulations are going into effect in order to protect victims of domestic abuse, as the nation concludes National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Under the new rule, evictions can only take place after the housing or subsidy providers have taken actions that will reduce or eliminate the threat to the victim, including, transferring the abuse victim to a different home; barring the abuser from the property; contacting law enforcement to increase police presence or develop other plans to keep the property safe; or seeking other legal remedies to prevent the abuser from acting on a threat.

The new rule also broadens the definitions of “actual and imminent threat,” to help housing or subsidy providers understand that to use “imminent threat” of harm to other residents as a reason for eviction of the victim, the evidence must be real and objective – not hypothetical, presumed or speculative.

“This rule recognizes the need to protect victims of domestic abuse from being evicted just because they were victimized. No one should be afraid of losing their home if they report abuse” said Donovan.

“The 2009 U.S. Conference of Mayors annual report on Hunger and Homelessness identified domestic violence as the third leading cause of homelessness among families,” said HUD Assistant Secretary Sandra Henriquez. “This regulation protects victims housing so they are not forced to choose between staying with their abuser and becoming homeless.”

VAWA, which was enacted in 2005, provided legal protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. These protections apply to families receiving rental assistance under HUD’s public housing program, Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, and multi-family project-based Section 8 program. HUD published the VAWA Interim Rule in November 2008 and allowed for public comments until January 2009.

The rule announced today addresses many concerns advocates raised with the 2008 interim rule by clarifying and aligning HUD’s statutory language with VAWA; providing more detailed guidance to housing authorities and Section 8 property owners on how to implement VAWA and making a commitment to provide further guidance in the future.

A majority of states also have passed legislation affecting the rights of landlords to evict victims of domestic abuse under the “criminal or disorderly conduct” language in a lease, which would amount to sex discrimination.  Maryland passed a similar law October 1st.  There, in addition to protections against evictions, victims of domestic violence are allowed to change locks, and to break the lease in some cases.

For more see, When Tenants Fight, Need to Stay Neutral.

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