HUD Expands Housing Protections or Survivors of Violence
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) expanded the protections of The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 2013 and finalized a new rule to protect the housing of survivors of domestic abuse, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Housing providers that receive funding from HUD, including those that serve the homeless, elderly and disabled are required to comply with the new rules 180 days after the rules are published to the federal register.
Some of the key changes in HUD's final rule on VAWA:
- the definition of domestic violence was amended to include violence committed by intimate partners of victims, and by providing that tenants cannot be denied assistance because an affiliated individual of theirs is or was a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
- expands remedies for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking by requiring covered housing providers to have emergency transfer plans, and providing that if housing providers allow for bifurcation of a lease, then tenants should have a reasonable time to establish eligibility for assistance under a VAWA-covered program or to find new housing when an assisted household has to be divided as a result of the violence or abuse covered by VAWA;
- also requires residential housing providers to document requests for emergency transfers, including the outcome of the request, and to report annually to HUD;
- ensures that existing tenants, as well as new tenants, of all HUD-covered programs receive notification of their rights under VAWA and HUD’s VAWA regulations; and
- establishes that residential housing providers may, but are not required to, request certain documentation from tenants seeking emergency transfers under VAWA. Even upon request, the final rule makes it clear that under most circumstances, a survivor need only to self-certify in order to exercise their rights under VAWA, ensuring third party documentation does not cause a barrier in a survivor expressing their rights and receiving the protections needed to keep themselves safe.