HUD Issues Final Rule Assuring Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence
On October 24, 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published the final regulations implementing housing protections for victims of domestic violence included in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA).
The final rule includes core protections across HUD programs covered by VAWA that ensure individuals are not denied assistance, evicted or have their assistance terminated because of their status as survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, or for being affiliated with a victim.
“Nobody should have to choose between an unsafe home and no home at all,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “Today we take a necessary step toward ensuring domestic violence survivors are protected from being twice victimized when it comes to finding and keeping a home they can feel safe in.”
The 2013 reauthorization expanded VAWA beyond public housing and vouchers to a number of other HUD programs, including:
- the HOME Investment Partnerships program,
- Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) and
- McKinney-Vento Homeless programs.
The national Housing Trust Fund (HTF), however, was not included as a “covered housing program” in the legislation. After considering Congress’s intent to expand VAWA protections to all HUD programs that provide rental assistance, HUD included the HTF as a covered program in the final rule.
The rule also finalizes requirements regarding notification to tenants and applicants of their rights and protections under VAWA and makes it clear that, under most circumstances, a survivor will be able to self-certify their status to exercise their VAWA rights, meaning they will not have to present third-party documentation.
VAWA required HUD to develop a model emergency transfer plan for housing providers, which is included in the final rule. The plan explains how housing providers must address tenants’ requests for emergency transfers when they fear for their life or safety in their current rental units.
HUD addressed concerns raised by advocates regarding the negative economic and criminal consequences often experienced by survivors of domestic violence.
Survivors often have their credit or rental history ruined by their perpetrators, or are forced to participate in criminal activity or are arrested for being part of a domestic disturbance. The final rule ensures covered housing providers do not deny tenancy or occupancy rights based solely on these adverse factors that are a direct result of being a survivor.