A federal law that went into effect in 2006 protects individuals who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. The name of the law is the Violence Against Women Act, or “VAWA.” This notice explains your rights under VAWA.
Protections for Victims
If you are eligible for public housing or for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program (HCV), the housing authority cannot refuse to admit you to the program solely because you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.
If you are the victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, the housing authority cannot evict you or terminate your assistance based on acts or threats of violence committed against you. Also, criminal acts directly related to the domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking that are caused by a member of your household or a guest can’t be the reason for evicting you or terminating your assistance if you were the victim of the abuse.
Reasons You Can Be Evicted / Assistance Terminated
The housing authority can still evict you or terminate your assistance if the housing authority can show there is an actual and imminent (immediate) threat to other tenants or housing authority staff if you are not evicted or terminated from assistance. Also, the housing authority can evict you for serious or repeated lease violations that are not related to the domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking against you. The housing authority cannot hold you to a more demanding set of rules than it applies to tenants who are not victims.
Removing the Abuser from the Household
The housing authority or owner may 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 rental unit. If the housing authority or owner chooses to remove the abuser, it may not take away the remaining tenants’ rights to the unit or otherwise punish the remaining tenants. In removing the abuser from the household, the housing authority or owner must follow federal, state, and local eviction procedures.
Proving That You Are a Victim of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, or Stalking
The housing authority can ask you to prove or “certify” that you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking. It must give you at least 14 business days (i.e., Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays do not count) to provide this proof. The housing authority is free to extend the deadline. There are three ways you can prove that you are a victim:
- Complete the certification form (click here to view) given to you by the housing authority. The form will ask for your name, the name of your abuser, the abuser’s relationship to you, the date, time, and location of the incident of violence, and a description of the violence.
- Provide a statement from a victim service provider, attorney, or medical professional who has helped you address incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking. The professional must state that he or she believes that the incidents of abuse are real. Both you and the professional must sign the statement, and both of you must state that you are signing “under penalty of perjury.”
- Provide a police or court record, such as a protective order.
If you fail to provide one of these documents within the required time, the housing authority may evict you or terminate your assistance.
The housing authority must keep confidential any information you provide about the violence against you, unless:
- You give written permission to the housing authority to release the information.
- The housing authority needs to use the information in an eviction proceeding, such as to evict your abuser.
- A law requires the housing authority to release the information.
If release of the information would put your safety at risk, you should inform the housing authority.
VAWA and Other Laws
VAWA does not limit the housing authority’s or owner’s duty to honor court orders about access to or control of a public housing unit. This includes orders issued to protect a 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, or stalking.
For Additional Information
For help and advice on escaping an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). Please also see our Resources page for more information on local assistance. For more information on the Violence Against Women Act, please call the Housing Authority at 252.291.2245
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 stalking as (A)(i) to follow, pursue, or repeatedly commit acts with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person OR (ii) to place under surveillance with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person AND (B) in the course of, or as a result of, such following, pursuit, surveillance, or repeatedly committed acts, to place a person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to, or to cause substantial emotional harm to (i) that person, (ii) a member of the immediate family of that person, or (iii) the spouse or intimate partner of that person.