- Have you been a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking?
- Do you live in project-based Section 8 housing?
- Find out how a new law can protect you against eviction and housing discrimination.
What is the new law?
The new law is called the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA.
VAWA protects victims of domestic violence who live in project-based Section 8 housing. If you or any members of your household are facing domestic abuse, VAWA can protect you from eviction and housing discrimination.
People are also working to pass a law to protect all tenants in Massachusetts, too. For more information, contact Greater Boston Legal Services at 617-371-1234.
How do I know if I live in project-based Section 8 housing?
Project-based Section 8 housing is linked to a particular building (unlike a Section 8 voucher, which moves with a person). Your tenancy is between you and a private landlord. You rent is limited to 30% of your income.
How does VAWA protect me?
VAWA means that a landlord can not refuse to rent to you just because you are or were a victim of abuse.
VAWA also means that you can not be evicted from your apartment just because of your abuser or your abuser’s actions.
If you and your abuser live together, the landlord can evict your abuser for his or her acts of abuse, but you must be allowed to stay. Acts of abuse include domestic violence, threats, dating violence or stalking.
Can I be evicted for violating my lease?
Under VAWA, a landlord can not evict you for violating your lease because you are a victim of abuse.
It also can not evict you for criminal activity related to domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.
But, a landlord could evict you for serious or repeated lease violations that are unrelated to domestic abuse.
When can a landlord evict me?
If you live in project-based Section 8 housing, your landlord needs to have “good cause” to evict you. VAWA says that your abuser’s acts or threats of violence or stalking can not be “good cause” to evict you.
Your landlord can evict you if he or she can prove that other tenants or staff are in actual and imminent (immediate) danger that cannot be addressed by security or other steps. If the landlord can prove this, you could be evicted even if you are a victim of domestic abuse.
But without proven danger, the landlord can not evict you or penalize you in any way.
Also, a landlord can not hold you to a more demanding set of rules than it uses for tenants who are not victims of abuse.
How can I claim my rights under VAWA?
Your landlord can ask for proof that you are a victim of abuse. If you want the protections that VAWA provides, you may have to prove to the landlord that you are a victim of abuse.
How do I prove that I am a victim of abuse?
The landlord must accept any one of these documents as proof that you are a victim of abuse:
- A HUD-approved certification form, CERTIFICATION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, DATING VIOLENCE OR STALKING. A local housing authority can give you a copy of the form.
- A written statement signed by a victim services provider, medical professional, or an attorney saying that the acts in question were acts of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking against you. You must also sign the statement.
- A police record that says you were a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.
- A court record (for example, a restraining order, an affidavit filed in a court case, or an order from the Probate and Family Court) that says you were a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.
How long do I have to submit proof?
If your landlord asks you for proof that you are a victim of abuse, you must submit it within 14 business days (this does not include weekends).
Is information I give to the landlord confidential?
Yes. The landlord must keep any information you provide about the violence against you confidential.
But sometimes the landlord may use this information. They can use this information only in the following situations:
- If you give permission for the landlord to share this information.
- If the landlord needs it in an eviction proceeding (for example, to evict your abuser).
- If a court orders the landlord to disclose information.
Where can I go for help?
If you think that you are being unfairly evicted or discriminated against because you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, call your local legal services office.
If you need emergency safety assistance or advice, call Safelink at 1-877-785-2020 or your local domestic violence shelter.
Safelink is a statewide 24-hour hotline operated by Casa Myrna Vazquez, Inc. in Boston. Call for crisis intervention, support, and access to emergency shelter.