February 16, 2012

Addressing Domestic Violence Discrimination

Written by:

Our guest blogger today is Allison Beach, Presidential Management Fellow, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity

Victims of domestic violence too often experience housing discrimination because the acts of their abuser.  Housing authorities and landlords evict victims under zero-tolerance crime policies, citing the violent acts of a household member or guest.  Victims are evicted for the property damage caused by their abusers, or for the disturbance caused by their repeated calls to the police.  A recent charge illustrates the devastating consequences a victim can face after an incident of abuse and how the Department can help victims who experience housing discrimination.

On February 2, 2012, the Department of Housing and Urban Development charged the owner and manager of a Mississippi apartment complex with housing discrimination for evicting a victim of domestic violence after her boyfriend assaulted her.  The complainant, a resident of Moss Point, Mississippi, was in her apartment with her boyfriend when he assaulted her, hitting her repeatedly, causing bruises and bleeding.  The police were contacted, her boyfriend was arrested, and she was taken to the hospital.

The next day, the complainant was served with a termination notice giving her six days to vacate the apartment.  The investigation revealed that one year before this incident, another female tenant was evicted following a domestic violence incident between her and her boyfriend.

The charge alleges that the owner and manager of the apartment complex violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating on the basis of sex.  Victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly female: the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 85% of victims are women.  In 2009, women were about five times as likely as men to experience domestic violence. Thus, their policy and practice of evicting the both the victim and the perpetrator of domestic violence has a disproportionate, adverse impact based on sex.

For further explanation of how the Fair Housing Act applies to cases of housing discrimination against domestic violence victims, and more examples of housing discrimination cases involving victims of domestic violence, read HUD’s guidance memorandum here

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