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¡No Se Deje! ®
Domestic violence is one of the most serious and costly social problems in society today. The National Center for Injury Protection Control reports that 1.3 million women per day are victims of domestic violence. The U. S. Congress has determined that domestic violence is the primary cause of homelessness among women and that they are often discriminated against by their landlords.
Housing discrimination against domestic violence victims includes eviction from the property and refusal to rent a dwelling to a victim. Landlords try to justify these irrational evictions by saying that they owe it to the other tenants to remove the cause of the violence. One landlord was quoted saying “it is easier to evict the victim since her presence created all the problems”.
The Federal Violence Against Women Act provides much needed protection for domestic violence victims that live in Public Housing or Subsidized Housing like the Section 8 Program. In these programs, federal law prohibits the Housing Authority from evicting domestic violence victims. Domestic violence victims that live in private rental facilities are not so well protected. Most states do not have similar laws to prohibit evicting domestic violence victims that live in private rental facilities. California still does not have such a law although many tenant rights and civil rights organizations have been working to enact one. So far only Washington D.C., Illinois, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Washington State have these laws.
Attorneys for domestic violence victims that have been unfairly evicted have had some success by using the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) to protect their clients. The FHA prohibits “discrimination in the sale, rental, financing of dwellings and other housing related transactions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under 18), pregnancy or disability”. A Federal Court recently ruled in favor of a domestic violence victim who argued that evicting her constituted illegal sex discrimination under the FHA. The judge decided that since most domestic violence victims are women, landlord policies that evict both partners have a disparate impact or discriminatory effect on women which constitutes illegal sex discrimination.
California does have one unique and favorable law to help domestic violence victims. Civil Code section 1946.7 allows victims of domestic violence to cancel a housing lease without having to pay the balance owed under the lease. The victim must notify the landlord in writing within 60 days, that she or a family member living in the house is the victim of domestic violence and that she is terminating the lease. A copy of a Restraining Order or a Police Report indicating that the tenant or family member was the victim of domestic violence must be attached to the letter. The tenant must then pay the rent for 30 days whether or not she continues to live there. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-7233 and can be called 24 hours a day. REAL MEN DO NOT ABUSE WOMEN. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®
JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ