Florida Community Settles Complaint by Alleged Domestic Violence Survivor
A Florida community recently settled a fair housing complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of an alleged domestic violence survivor. According to the complaint, the community refused to rent to the woman unless she provided her children's Social Security numbers, which the ACLU said would endanger her family by revealing their location to their alleged abuser.
The complaint alleged that the woman, "Hope," changed her name and Social Security number after fleeing her abuser but didn’t change her children’s names because doing so would require her to notify their abusive father. Allegedly, the rental office told Hope that they needed the children’s Social Security information for auditing purposes, and to confirm that she had legal custody of the children to prevent anything "dramatic" from happening. Allegedly, she offered to provide documentation to prove she had sole legal custody of the children and that she had been abused, but she was denied an apartment.
According to the ACLU, there is no law that requires rental offices to collect the Social Security numbers of minor children. Moreover, the ACLU said that disclosing her children’s information and allowing the company to perform a background check could potentially reveal the family’s location through the children’s credit reports.
Under the settlement agreement, the management company agreed to adopt housing protections contained in the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and to provide reasonable accommodations to survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking at all its properties, as well as pay monetary damages and attorneys’ fees. The ACLU said that the settlement was the first HUD agreement to address the rights of domestic violence survivors.
"Domestic violence survivors should be able to access secure housing without facing bias and compromising their safety," Sandra Park, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, said in a statement. "Sadly, this kind of discrimination is all too common. But victories like this are a step toward making this widespread mistreatment a thing of the past."