VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT IN THE HOUSING CHOICE VOUCHER PROGRAM
A federal law that went into effect in 2013 protects individuals who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The name of the law is the Violence against Women Act, or “VAWA.”
This notice explains your obligations under VAWA.
Protections for Victims
You cannot refuse to rent to an applicant solely because he or she is a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
You cannot evict a tenant who is the victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking based on acts or threats of violence committed against the victim. Also, criminal acts directly related to the domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking that are caused by a household member or guest cannot be cause for evicting the victim of the abuse.
You can evict a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking if you can demonstrate that there is an actual and imminent (immediate) threat to other tenants or employees at the property if the victim is not evicted. Also, you may evict a victim for serious or repeated lease violations that are not related to the domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. You cannot hold a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking to a more demanding standard than you hold tenants who are not victims.
Removing the Abuser from the Household
You may bifurcate (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 unit. If you choose to remove the abuser, you may not take away the remaining tenants’ rights to the unit or otherwise punish the remaining tenants. In removing the abuser from the household, you must follow federal, state, and local eviction procedures.
Certification of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking
If a tenant asserts VAWA’s protections, you can ask the tenant to certify that he or she is a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. You are not required to demand official documentation and may rely upon the victim’s statement alone. If you choose to request certification, you must do so in writing and give the tenant at least 14 business days to provide documentation. You are free to extend this deadline. A tenant can certify that he or she is a victim by providing any one of the following three documents:
- A completed, signed HUD-approved certification form. The most recent form is HUD-50066. This form is available at the housing authority or online at http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/forms/hud5.cfm.
- A statement from a victim service provider, attorney, or medical professional who has helped the victim address incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. The professional must state that he or she believes that the incidents of abuse are real. Both the victim and the professional must sign the statement under the penalty of perjury.
- A police record or court record, such as a protective order.
If the tenant fails to provide one of these documents within 14 business days, you may evict the tenant if authorized by otherwise applicable law and lease provisions.
You must keep confidential any information a tenant provides to certify that he or she is a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. You cannot enter the information into a shared database or reveal it to outside entities unless:
The tenant provides written permission releasing the information.
The information is required for use in an eviction proceeding, such as to evict the abuser.
Release of the information is otherwise required by law.
The victim should inform you if the release of the information would put his or her safety at risk.
VAWA and Other Laws
VAWA does not limit your obligation to honor court orders regarding access to or control of the property. This includes orders issued to protect the 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, sexual assault, or stalking.
If you have any questions regarding VAWA, please contact the PHA at 409-951-7200.
HUD Notice PIH 2006-42 contains detailed information regarding VAWA’s certification requirements. The notice is available at http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/notices/pih/06pihnotices.cfm.
For purposes of determining whether a public housing applicant or 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 sexual assault as “any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent” (42 U.S.C. 13925(a)).
VAWA defines stalking as engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others, or suffer substantial emotional distress.