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When you are a survivor of domestic violence, it is easy to feel trapped. Whether it was a sudden incident or a recurring issue, you can quickly become overwhelmed by the thought of what to do next. Luckily, there are a number of legal rights provided by federal law that are designed to protect the survivors of domestic and dating violence when it comes to housing. The Violence Against Women Act (which actually protects everybody, regardless of gender identity) provides three key rights while the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development policy provides two more important protections.

1. Federal Housing Protection

Under the Violence Against Women Act, no applicant for federally subsidized housing can have their application denied due to having experienced domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. This makes it easier for these people to escape abusive situations.

2. Eviction Protection

Hands on top of a miniature House protection concept

The Act also prevents any person who has been subjected to this mistreatment from being evicted as a result of it. This means the victim of the abuse cannot lose their housing due to repeated noise of police visits to the home. However, they can still be evicted for other reasons, such as failure to pay rent.

3. Lease Bifurcation

Finally, the Act allows tenants to remove the offending party from a lease agreement “without penalizing the victim.” This means that landlords have to allow the survivor of the violence or abuse to continue living under the same lease terms while removing the abuser from the agreement.

4. Landlords Cannot Require Proof of Abuse

The U.S. Department of Urban Housing and Development prohibits housing providers from requiring that tenants show proof of their abuse or domestic violence in order to invoke any of the rights associated with that status. A person’s self-certification that they are a survivor of domestic abuse is sufficient. There can be exceptions to this rule in cases where each member of a relationship alleges that the other is the abusive party.

5. Emergency Transfer Plans Required

All housing providers must have what is called an emergency transfer plan in place that will help victims of domestic or dating violence to safely escape their abusive situations. This means that landlords of accommodations such as apartment complexes must be immediately able to transfer a victim of this mistreatment to another unit or other available housing in order to protect that person from further abuse.

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