You are here

Protections for Survivors of Domestic Violence

Produced by Paul Schack
Created May 2017

1. All Housing

In Massachusetts, a landlord cannot reject your application for housing if you had to end your lease early or change your locks at a previous apartment because of domestic violence. This applies to all landlords and all rental housing.

If you feel you have been denied housing for this reason, you can file a complaint in Housing Court, District Court or Boston Municipal court and ask a judge to require the landlord to rent to you. Denial of housing for reasons related to domestic violence might also be considered discrimination based on gender. If you feel that you are being discriminated against because of your gender see Chapter 7: Discrimination.

2. State Housing Assistance

If you are applying for state housing assistance, a housing agency or housing provider cannot reject your application if you have to end your lease early or change your locks at a previous apartment because you faced domestic violence.

If you feel you have been denied a state rental housing voucher for these reasons you can immediately appeal the denial in a hearing under the rules of the specific housing program. For more about these rules see Challenging the Denial of Housing. You can also file a complaint in Housing Court, District Court or Boston Municipal court and ask a judge to require the housing agency to give you subsidy.

If you have applied to privately-owned multifamily subsidized housing provider, you can file a complaint in Housing Court, District Court or Boston Municipal court and ask a judge to require the housing provider to give you housing.

Denial of housing for reasons related to domestic violence might also be considered discrimination based on gender. If you feel that you are being discriminated against because of your gender see Chapter 7: Discrimination.

3. Federal Housing Assistance

If you are applying for federally subsidized housing or a Section 8 voucher, a landlord, property manager, or housing agency cannot deny you housing because you have been victim of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or sexual assault. The federal law is called the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). It does not apply to market rate housing.

If you believe that you have been denied federally subsidized housing or a Section 8 voucher because of reasons related to domestic violence, you can challenge the denial by submitting a form to the property manager or landlord saying that you are protected by VAWA. Click to get this form in English and in other languages. Or you can also submit your own letter and do not have to use this form.

A landlord or agency providing the Section 8 voucher may ask you for proof that you have been a victim of violence. The landlord or housing agency must give you at least 14 business days (weekends and holidays do not count) to provide proof of the violence. In addition to the form listed above, you may provide a letter signed by a victim service provider, attorney, or medical or mental health professional who has helped you with the abuse. Or you may provide a police report, court record (such as a restraining order), or record from an agency hearing.

In addition, if you are denied federally subsidized housing or Section 8 for reasons related to domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or sexual assault you can also immediately appeal the denial under the rules of the specific housing program. For more about these rules see Challenging the Denial of Housing in Legal Tactics: Finding Public and Subsidized Housing.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
Monday-Friday
between
9am and 4pm