- What is VAWA?
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a law that protects victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Victims threatened with these things are protected too. In federally funded housing, these victims are protected from being discriminated against because of the abuse committed against them.
- Am I covered by VAWA’s housing protections?
VAWA protects you if you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. You don’t have to be married to or living with the abuser to be protected by VAWA.
It also protects your immediate family and other household members. Other household members don’t have to be related to you by blood or marriage to be protected.
You are protected if you are applying for or live in any of these housing programs:
- Public housing
- Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers
- Section 8 project-based housing
- Section 202 housing for the elderly
- Section 811 housing for the disabled
- Section 236 multifamily rental housing
- Section 221(d)(3) Below Market Interest Rate (BMIR)
- Housing Opportunities for People with Aids (HOPWA)
- Continuum of Care andEmergency Solutions Grants programs
- Housing Trust Fund
- Rural Development multifamily housing
- Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) housing
- Does VAWA protect me if I live in private, market-rate housing?
No. VAWA does NOT cover private housing that doesn’t get federal assistance. The rights described here apply only to the federal housing programs listed above.
But Kentucky has its own laws to protect you if you rent from a private landlord. For information about those laws, see the materials on Kentucky Housing Protections for Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims: Applying for and Living in Private Housing on this website.
- How do VAWA housing protections help me?
If you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking:
- You can’t be turned down for housing or federal rent assistance just because you are or have been a victim or a threatened victim.
- You can’t be evicted or lose your federal rent assistance just because you are or have been a victim or a threatened victim.
- You can’t be turned down for housing or federal rent assistance, evicted, or lose your subsidy for things related to the abuse. Like bad credit history and criminal history.
- What if I need to get the abuser out of the home?
If someone living in your home uses violence against you, the housing authority or your landlord can evict the abuser only. You, your family, and other household members can stay in the home. If you are not listed as head of household or your name is not on the rental assistance papers, then you usually have 90 days or until the end of the lease to set up your own eligibility for that subsidy or another housing subsidy. Or you can find new housing.
- What if I need to move to escape the abuse?
If you have a Section 8 voucher, you can move for reasons related to the abuse and keep your voucher — even if your lease has not ended. Housing authorities and landlords must have emergency transfer plans. These let people transfer to other federally assisted housing that is available and safe. You can transfer if:
- you ask your landlord and
- you have reason to believe you are about to be hurt by more abuse, or
- you area victim of sexual assault that happened on the property. It can’t have happened more than 90 days before you asked for a transfer.
If your landlord doesn’t have an emergency transfer plan, contact your local legal aid office or domestic violence program.
- How do I prove that I can use VAWA’s protections?
The housing authority or your landlord may ask for proof that you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The housing provider has to ask you for this in writing.
There are 3ways to prove you are a victim:
- Fill out a self-certification form. You want Form HUD5382. Find it at: https://bit.ly/2EI4cNF or call the housing authority or a legal aid office.
The form asks you for:
• your name
• the name of your abuser (if known and safe to give)
• the abuser’s relationship to you
• the date, time, and place of the violence
• a description of the violence.
- Give them a letter signed by a victim service provider, a lawyer, or a medical or mental health professional who helped you with the abuse. This is called “third-party documentation.” You need to sign the letter too.
- Give them a police report, a court record (like a restraining order), or an administrative record.
You don’t have to do all 3, you can pick any of these. Unless the abuser also shows similar proof, a landlord can’t make you choose any one kind of proof or more than one kind. The landlord has to give you at least 14 business days to give proof of the violence. Business days means you don’t count weekends and holidays.
- What happens if the abuser also submits a certification claiming that they are a victim?
If the landlord gets proof from the abuser claiming that they are the victim, then the landlord might ask you to submit more proof showing that you are a victim.
- Can a landlord share the information I give about the abuse with others?
No, except in limited cases. The housing authority or landlord can’t give your information about the abuse to others. The information may be shared only if you agree in writing or if it is required by law. For example, it might happen if the information is needed to evict the abuser from the housing.
- Does this mean that a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking can’t be evicted at all?
No. You can still be evicted for serious or repeated lease violations that aren’t related to the abuse. You are held to the same standard as other tenants. The landlord might also be able to evict if there is a real and immediate threat to other tenants if you are not evicted. If you get any type of eviction notice, call a legal aid office right away.
- Does the housing authority or landlord have to tell me about VAWA’s housing protections?
Yes. VAWA rules say that every housing authority and landlord has to tell anyone applying and tenants about the VAWA housing protections. The notice, Form HUD-5380, is used to tell people. Find it at: https://bit.ly/2NETW1L. You get this form along with the self-certification form, Form HUD5382 found at: https://bit.ly/2EI4cNF. You get these forms when you are denied housing or assistance, when you are admitted to housing, or when you are notified of eviction or termination. This notice must be in multiple languages.
- How does VAWA affect other state or local laws that might protect me?
VAWA is federal law. But VAWA should not replace other federal, state, or local laws that provide more protections for victims of abuse. Kentucky has its own laws to protect you if you rent from a private landlord. For information about those laws, see the materials on Kentucky Housing Protections for Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims: Applying for and Living in Private Housing on this website.
- Who can help me?
Contact your local legal aid programs, a lawyer or domestic violence programs to see if VAWA can help you.