Domestic Violence Protections (VAWA)
The Violence Against Women Act of 2005 (VAWA), as reauthorized effective immediately, is now known as VAWA 2013. This Act covers both the public housing and Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) programs, if applicable, administered by public housing authorities. VAWA 2013 expanded these protections to cover tax credit programs, too. The State of North Carolina also has protections that cover all housing types, not just federally assisted housing. VAWA provides protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, or sexual assaults to prevent them from losing housing as a result of being a victim (hereafter referred to collectively as "domestic violence"). This protection also extends to immediate family or other individuals residing in the household. Immediate family is defined as a spouse, parent, brother, sister or child of the victim, or an individual to whom that person stands in loco parentis; or any other person residing in the unit that is in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim.
In 2006, Wake County Housing Authority (WCHA) mailed or hand delivered notification to all HCV households and public housing addresses to inform them of the protections provided under VAWA. Since that time, WCHA has continued to inform new move-ins to public housing to make them aware of the VAWA protections. WCHA posts information in management offices and waiting rooms to make housing participants and applicants aware of their option to seek protections if they are victims of domestic violence.
WCHA strictly enforces its lease agreement in areas of criminal activity, disruptions to the neighborhood, and property damage. In most cases, WCHA does not know if a person is a victim of domestic violence unless the victim reports this to the WCHA. It is the obligation of the victim, applicant, or victim's advocate to make this status known to WCHA. At any time, it is made known to WCHA that a participant or applicant is a victim of domestic violence, WCHA will pause its negative action to allow the victim the time needed to provide documentation of the abuse.
Documentation of Domestic Violence
WCHA will provide, in writing, HUD form 50066 to be completed by the victim within 14 business days or the victim may choose to submit third party documentation. Third party documentation may include local law enforcement records, documentation signed by the victim and an employee, agent of a victim service provider, an attorney, medical or mental health professional from which the victim has sought assistance. The professional attests under penalty of perjury (28 U.S.C. 1746) that he or she believes the incidence of domestic violence is grounds for protection under VAWA regulations. If the victim does not return the HUD 50066 or the third party verification within 14 business days or secure an extension from WCHA, the victim cannot be assured of receiving VAWA protections. Once the HUD form or third party verification is provided, WCHA will not seek additional evidence from the victim. All of the information will be treated confidentially and will not be shared with any other entity or individual.
Assistance for Victims
Each situation is different and victims of domestic violence will be assisted on a case by case basis, depending on the individual circumstances. The following are some of the actions WCHA may take.
- Lease Bifurcation - WCHA may split a lease agreement to remove the offender and allow the victim and other household members to remain. If the offender is the head of household, PHA will provide the remaining adult household member the opportunity to establish eligibility or a reasonable time in which to find another dwelling.
- Moving without proper notice - If a documented victim must vacate a unit in order to be safe, WCHA will not use this as grounds for the termination of housing assistance.
- Emergency Transfers - WCHA generally maintains 97% occupancy levels in public housing which may result in a vacant unit being unavailable. VAWA indicates that victims of a sexual assault that occurred in their dwelling should be transferred within 90 days. WCHA will attempt to meet this time frame but cannot guarantee it as a vacant unit may not be available. WCHA will consider over-housing a family in this situation to expedite the transfer. To qualify for a VAWA emergency transfer, the tenant must request the transfer in writing and reasonably believe he or she is under threat of imminent harm. Transfers are at the expense of the family.
- Securing Access to Unit - WCHA will change the locks within 24 hours at no cost if requested to do so by a victim of domestic violence. However, the lock changes will not be done free of charge multiple times when the occupant continues to share the key with the abuser. Also, with the concurrence of the victim, WCHA will trespass the abuser from public housing property. All victims of domestic violence should report the incidents to their manager as soon as practical and safe to do so. All such reports will be kept confidential.
- In cases where two household members both claim to be the victim and name the other household member as the perpetrator, WCHA will require third party documentation to determine the actual status of the household members.
Grounds for Eviction and/or Termination of Assistance
Nothing in this policy may be construed to limit the authority of WCHA to terminate housing assistance to any tenant or lawful occupant if WCHA can demonstrate an actual and imminent threat to other tenants, WCHA employees, or others providing services to the public housing or property. Actual and imminent threat consists of a physical danger that is real, would occur within an immediate time frame, and could result in death or bodily harm. The factors that will be considered include: the duration of the risk, the nature and severity of the potential harm, and the likelihood that the potential harm will occur. As is the case with all terminations of assistance, the affected family will have the option of asking for a grievance or an informal hearing if they disagree with the termination.
ATTENTION VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, DATING VIOLENCE, SEXUAL ASSAULT OR STALKING
If you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking you have legal protections under both state and federal statutes. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) prevents a victim from losing housing due to being a victim of abuse. However, in order to receive these protections the victim must report the issue to their landlord. Police reports or certifications from the victim or service provider may be provided. VAWA requires this information to be handled in a private and confidential manner. If the abuse is not reported the housing provider may treat police calls as criminal activity and pursue ease termination.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking the following resources are available to provide assistance.
National Sexual Assault Hotline