ONLINE SHOP

Housing Protections Q & A for Survivors of Domestic or Sexual Violence

INTRODUCTION


In situations of domestic and sexual violence, one of the many problems is that the perpetrator may be in an intimate relationship with the survivor. This can create situations where the perpetrator and survivor are cohabitating, or are very familiar with each other's homes, lives and schedules, which can create the likelihood for further acts of violence or stalking. In order to ensure her safety and protection, the survivor may want to change her living situation.


Problems may arise if the survivor is in a contract such as a lease, and a less than sympathetic landlord demands the survivor to keep to the terms of the contract and continue paying rent. The landlord may also accidentally or purposefully reveal the survivor's new address to the abuser, or ignore a personal protection order. When in circumstances like these, the landlord's actions may actively deter the survivor from escaping an abusive household or relationship, which will continue to threaten her safety.


The following Q&A gives survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and victims of stalking an overview of some of the current laws that may help protect yourself and your rights in Michigan. Links have been provided to assist in correspondence with landlords, and further resources are provided that connect survivors with valuable legal and housing resources in Michigan.


QUESTION:


I am a domestic or sexual violence survivor, and housing is being denied to me because of this fact, or because I am a woman. Are there laws that protect me from this type of discrimination?

 

ANSWER:

 

Under Michigan Law...
The Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act states that it is illegal to discriminate in almost all housing situations on basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or, importantly to the domestic violence survivor, sex. Domestic and sexual violence survivors are statistically more likely to be women. The argument would be that the survivor is female, and the refusal to rent was based on her status as a female. Therefore, statistically speaking, the landlord's decision to not rent to survivors has a larger impact on females, which would demonstrate that the landlord's decision not to rent was motivated by discrimination against women, or at the very least disproportionately affects women.

 

Under Federal Law...
The Federal Fair Housing Act provides that housing shall not be denied to an individual based on gender. Domestic or sexual violence survivors are statistically more likely to be female. The plaintiff-tenant must show that the landlord discriminates against survivors, and therefore is disproportionately affecting women.
The Violence Against Women Act of 2005 (VAWA) also provides that public housing and private housing that receives federal funds cannot deny admission to a domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking survivor based on their history as a survivor.


Before a landlord honors VAWA, they can request proof of survivor status at their own discretion. In this event, the tenant has 14 business days to provide certified proof of their status as a survivor of domestic violence.

Sample Letter Claiming Protected Status Under VAWA 2005

 

QUESTION:


I am a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, or a victim of stalking, and I am being evicted from my housing because of these instances. Are there laws that protect me, and will allow me to continue living in my home?


ANSWER:


Under Federal Law...

The Violence Against Women Act of 2005 (VAWA) provides that public housing authorities and private landlords that accept federally-funded housing vouchers cannot evict a domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking survivor based on the charge of these crimes, unless the survivor-tenant is a danger to other tenants.


Before a landlord honors VAWA, they can request proof of survivor status at their own discretion. In this event, the tenant has 14 business days to provide certified proof of their status as a survivor of domestic violence.


Sample Letter Claiming Protected Status Under VAWA 2005

 

QUESTION:

 

I am a survivor of domestic and/or sexual violence, and fear for my safety if I continue to remain at my current residence. Are there laws that will allow me to break my lease agreement so I can move to protect my safety?


ANSWER:

 

Under Michigan Law...

The MCL 554.601b is an amendment to the Landlord-Tenant Act, and it allows domestic or sexual violence survivors the possibility of a release from a lease agreement without penalty if the survivor-tenant provides written notification and documentation of reasonable and present danger via certified mail.
Such documents include:
a. A valid personal protection order;
b. A probation, release, or parole order with a condition attached to protect the tenant;
c. A police report for any crime that occurred less than 14 days ago;
d. A police report with charges of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking if the incident occurred more than 14 days ago; or
e. A report by a qualified third part, such as
a. A domestic violence or sexual assault counselor, a licensed health professional, a licensed mental health professional or a clergy member

In addition, after a release the landlord may not withhold the survivor-tenant's security deposit unless otherwise allowed. They may, however, keep any prepaid rent given prior to the survivor's vacating the premises.


Sample Letter for Claiming Rights Under MCL 554.601b


QUESTION:

 

I am a survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, or a victim of stalking, and currently live and share a lease with the abuser or stalker. I can no longer live with the abuser as it endangers my safety. Are there laws that protect me?

 

ANSWER:

 

Under Michigan Law...

The MCL 554.601b amendment to the Landlord-Tenant Act provides that if a survivor is granted release from their lease agreement based on their survivor status that the lease may also be bifurcated to permit any other tenants who want to remain in the lease to stay.
Under Federal Law...


The Violence Against Women Act of 2005 (VAWA) states that instances of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking cannot count as a serious lease violation, a "good cause," or criminal activity against the survivor, but they may count as a serious lease violation, good cause, or criminal activity against the abuser. VAWA allows for the splitting of the lease so that the abuser who co-signed may be evicted for their abusive actions.


*Before a landlord honors VAWA, they can request proof of survivor status at their own discretion. In this event, the tenant has 14 business days to provide certified proof of their status as a survivor of domestic violence.

 

QUESTION:

 

Is my landlord obligated to honor a personal protection order?


ANSWER:

 

Under Federal Law...

The Violence Against Women Act of 2005 (VAWA) requires eligible landlords to honor all personal protection orders issued to the survivor-tenant of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.
*Before a landlord honors VAWA, they can request proof of survivor status at their own discretion. In this event, the tenant has 14 business days to provide certified proof of their status as a survivor of domestic violence.

 

QUESTION:

 

I am a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, and/or a victim of stalking. I want to keep my new address confidential. Is my landlord obligated to keep my forwarding address confidential?

 

ANSWER:

 

Under Michigan Law...

MCL 554.601b states that in the condition of a release from the lease agreement due to domestic or sexual violence, and/or stalking, the landlord cannot reveal the survivor's forwarding address or any other documentation unless for business or necessary purposes.

 

QUESTION:

 

What are examples of certified proof of domestic violence, dating violence or stalking under the Violence Against Women Act of 2005?

 

ANSWER:

 

Certified proof includes:
Certification from an attorney, a domestic violence service provider, or a medical professional;
A police record; or
A court record.

This proof must be provided within 14 business days, or the landlord is not required to treat the survivor as a survivor under VAWA.

 

Where to Go for More Information
For MCADSV's full report on Housing Protections for Survivors of Violence, click: Landlord Tenant Memo (Read Only)

 

Legal services and directories in Michigan:
Legal Aid Programs, click: http://www.michbar.org/public_resources/legalaid.cfm listed and supported by the State Bar of Michigan.

 

Michigan Legal Services Directory, click: http://www.michiganlegalaid.org/
Michigan Legal Aid provides a listing of all major legal aid programs in the state of Michigan as compiled by the University of Michigan College of Law, the State Bar of Michigan, the Michigan State Bar
Foundation, the Michigan Poverty Law Program, and the Legal Services Corporation.

 

Legal Documents:

 

Landlord-Tenant law publication by the MI Legislature, click: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/publications/tenantlandlord.pdf lays out the general requirements and an overview of landlord-tenant law in Michigan. ( 2.20 MB)

 

MCL 554.601b text, click: http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-554-601b It includes the specific letter that must be provided by a qualified third-party in order for there to be certified proof as required by the statute.

 

Michigan State Housing Development Authority (Fair Housing page), click: http://michigan.gov/mshda/0,1607,7-141-5515_53192---,00.html includes numerous fair housing legal documents.
VAWA 2005 publication created by the American Bar Association, click: www.abanet.org/domviol/docs/VAWA2005forAttorneys.pdf, lays out an explanation of the requirements and changes created by VAWA 2005.

 

Fair Housing Centers in Michigan

 

Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan, click: http://www.fhcswm.org/services

 

Fair Housing Center of Western Michigan, click: http://www.fhcwm.org/

 

Many Legal Services Programs throughout Michigan provide legal support and counsel in you have received unfair housing treatment because of race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age, familial marital, or handicap status, and you are a resident of the county the program serves.

 

Find your local program - Michigan Legal Services Directory, click: http://www.michiganlegalaid.org/

 

HUD's Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Program Office, click: http://www.hud.gov/local/mi/working/localpo/fheo.cfm, investigates any claims arising out of alleged violations of federal civil rights laws by groups funded by HUD.

 

For the Detroit office, please contact the following location: Yvonne Poindexter, Director, (313) 226-7900 ext. 8013, for the hearing impaired: (313) 226-7900 ext. 6899.
Michigan Tenant Counseling Program, click: http://www.michigantenants.org/

 

National Housing Information:

 

ACLU, Violence Against Women: Housing, click: http://www.aclu.org/womens-rights/violence-against-women-housing

 

Legal Momentum, Employment and Housing Rights for Victims of Domestic Violence, click: http://www.legalmomentum.org/legal-knowledge/publications/employment-and-housing-rights.html includes valuable information for survivors of domestic violence in housing and employment matters.

 

National Network to End Domestic Violence, Housing, click: http://www.nnedv.org/policy/issues/housing.html

 

Informational Websites:

 

Legal Momentum, click: http://www.legalmomentum.org/

 

National Housing Law Project, click: http://nhlp.org/help

 

National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, click: http://nlchp.org/program.cfm?prog=3

 

Note: Websites last accessed on November 1, 2011.

 

Information sourced from: Matthew Sherman, JD Research Attorney, MCADSV. Webinar, April 2011. "Housing Protections for Survivors of Violence." Michigan Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Okemos, MI.

  • Our Stories

    client2
     
  • Training

     bot logo

     
  • Get Involved

     

Amazon Smile