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Domestic violence and your housing rights

Authored By: Legal Services of the Hudson Valley LSC Funded
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If you are a domestic violence victim, you have certain housing rights under federal, New York state and, if applicable, Westchester County laws.

Your federal housing rights

You have protections under The Violence Against Women Act. Despite the law's name, it applies to every gender. It is also the law in every state. Under this law:

Right #1

You cannot be rejected when you apply for federally subsidized housing because of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking in your circumstance.

Right #2

You cannot lose your apartment or your rent voucher because you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking unless there is an immediate danger to other tenants. This does not mean that a survivor of DV can’t be evicted, but the survivor can’t be evicted because of the domestic violence.

Right #3

A tenant has a right to “lease bifurcation,” which means removing your abuser from the lease “without penalizing the victim.”

*If you have a Section 8 voucher: if the family breaks up as the result of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, Section 8 “must ensure that the victim retains assistance.”

You are also protected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the following ways:

Right #4

A housing provider cannot require that you provide documentation of abuse. He or she can ask for it, but then must accept one of the following forms of documentation: self-certification, police report, court record, or a statement from a service provider, like your counselor or lawyer.

Exception: Your housing provider may be able to require third-party documentation if he or she receives conflicting information about the domestic violence, such as two household members each naming each other as the perpetrator. A statement from a service provider, for example, a case manager, counts as third-party documentation.

Right #5

Housing providers are required to adopt emergency transfer plans to allow tenants to move to safer locations.

Your New York state housing rights

You also have state laws that protect you. NYS real property law gives the following housing rights to domestic violence victims:

Right #6

NYS laws allow you to break your lease if you have an Order of Protection. This law may make it easier for you to move if you are worried about your safety. If you take the proper steps, this prevents your landlord from going after you for the rest of the rent once you move out. Ask your landlord for permission to break your lease in advance of the date you intend to leave. If your landlord will not give consent, you must go to the court that issued your Order of Protection.  It can issue an order to break the lease IF your rent is paid up.

Right #7

NYS laws prohibit housing discrimination based on your status as a domestic violence victim, except when you are in, or applying to live in, a building where the owner also lives and that only has one or two units. You would need to prove to the court that the landlord would not try to evict you if you were not a domestic violence victim.

Right #8

New York also has laws to protect the confidentiality of phone numbers, addresses, and voter registrations.  You should contact an attorney to find out more.

Right #9

Shelters are required accept service animals or therapy dogs.

Rights for people who live in Westchester County

This section applies to Westchester County.

Right #10

Westchester County’s Human Rights Law protects victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or stalking from being discriminated against in housing.


Disclaimer: The content on this site is offered only as a public service and does not constitute legal advice. You should contact an attorney who is knowledgeable in this area to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

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