October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and we want to make sure that anyone in our community who may be experiencing domestic violence knows that they have legal protections when it comes to their housing.
Domestic violence and housing go hand in hand. Far too often, survivors of domestic violence are forced to make the decision between their safety and their home. Nearly 1 in 3 residents in Louisiana domestic violence shelters reported being there because the actions of their abusers led to their eviction, according to a 2015 Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence survey. Because many shelters are at capacity and have to turn away survivors, evictions often lead to homelessness. According to the 2013 Louisiana Homeless Census, 75 percent of all homeless adults in Louisiana report being victims of domestic violence.
The Louisiana Violence Against Women Act was passed in 2015 and includes four important protections:
1. Anyone in need of emergency assistance must be permitted to contact police without penalty. You should never have to choose between getting emergency assistance and losing your home. Landlords cannot penalize or evict you for calling emergency services, even if your lease has a “zero tolerance” policy.
2. Survivors cannot be evicted because of domestic violence. This law protects survivors from being evicted. Landlords can’t evict you, give you a notice to vacate, or refuse to renew a month-to-month lease because of abuse. The landlord CAN evict an abuser, while allowing the survivor to take over the lease.
3. Survivors cannot be denied housing solely on the basis of past abuse. If a landlord or leasing agent knows that you have experienced domestic violence (for example, if you list a domestic violence shelter as your current address on a housing application) they can NOT use that as a reason to deny your application.
4. Survivors can terminate leases early and move if they need to. Survivors must be allowed to end a lease early without forfeiting a deposit or being penalized for a move that may be necessary to ensure their safety.
These protections generally apply to buildings with six or more units; however, if you live in a building with fewer than six units, other laws like the Fair Housing Act may still protect you. The Fair Housing Action makes it illegal for someone to deny you housing based on your race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, or because you have children. If you live in federally funded housing, you may also have additional protections under the Violence Against Women Act.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence at 1-888-411-1333. Help is free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day. If you are having trouble finding, keeping, or leaving your home because of abuse, please call the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center at (887) 445-2100. Help is free and confidential to anyone in the state of Louisiana.