COACH’s Pop Quiz!

Q: A woman applies for a one-bedroom unit for herself and her baby. During the screening process, you learn that she’s currently staying with family members after moving out of her previous rental unit because of domestic abuse by her former boyfriend. She says that she’s now got a protective order against him, but you’re worried that he may show up and cause problems at your community. Could your community face liability under state or federal law if you reject her application based on concerns for the safety and welfare of your current residents?

A: Yes, your community could face liability under the patchwork of federal, state, or local laws that offer housing-related protections for victims of domestic violence.

Though federal fair housing law doesn’t specifically cover domestic violence victims, HUD says that in some cases, the federal Fair Housing Act may protect domestic violence victims under the ban on sex discrimination, since the vast majority of domestic violence victims are women. In some states, communities could face a fair housing claim under state laws banning discrimination against domestic violence victims.

Moreover, public and federally assisted housing communities must comply with the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which bans discrimination against victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

For more guidance on this topic, see the Coach’s February 2014 lesson, “How to Ensure Legal Compliance When Dealing with Domestic Violence.”