Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Property Managers Change Policies After Denying Rental to Domestic Violence Survivor

This is from the ACLU:

Woman Was Denied Rental For Refusing to Provide Information That Would Jeopardize Family

April 7, 2014

CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

ORLANDO, Fla. – A Florida apartment complex and property management company agreed today to adopt protections for survivors of domestic violence in line with federal law after a woman was refused housing for failing to provide information that would have endangered her family.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a Fair Housing Act complaint on behalf of survivor "Hope" with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 2011. Hope was told she was required to provide the Valencia Forest Apartments rental office in Orlando with her children’s Social Security numbers, an act that could reveal their location to their abuser.

"I'm glad that steps are being taken to ensure that no family ever has to go through what my family went through," said Hope, who has since found housing elsewhere. "No parent should have to choose between having a place to live or keeping her family safe."

In today’s agreement, Concord Management promised 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 the Valencia Forest Apartments and all of their other properties, as well as pay monetary damages and attorneys’ fees. It is the first HUD agreement to address the rights of domestic violence survivors.

Hope changed her name and Social Security number after fleeing her abuser but did not change her children’s names because doing so would require her to notify their abusive father. The rental office told Hope they needed the children’s Social Security information for auditing purposes, and to confirm she had legal custody of the children to prevent anything "dramatic" from happening. Although she offered documentation to prove she had sole legal custody of the children and that she had been abused, she was denied an apartment.

No law requires rental offices to collect the Social Security numbers of minor children. 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.

"Domestic violence survivors should be able to access secure housing without facing bias and compromising their safety," said Sandra Park, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. "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."