Housing Rights for Domestic Violence Survivors Living in Public Housing or Using Vouchers

Authored By: Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida


Does Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) protect me?

VAWA applies only to tenants in certain assisted housing programs:

  • public housing
  • Section 8 vouchers
  • project-based Section 8
  • Section 202 housing for the elderly
  • Section 811 housing for people with disabilities

The law does not cover tenants who live in private housing with no rental assistance. 

What rights does VAWA offer?

Rights for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking include:

  • If you are applying for housing, you can’t be denied simply because you are a victim.
  • You can’t be evicted or lose your voucher based on violence against you.
  • Acts of violence against you cannot be “serious or repeated violations” of your lease or “good cause” for evicting you or ending your voucher.

What if I need to get the abuser out of the home? 

If a member of your household uses violence against you, the housing authority or your landlord may evict the abuser alone, and let you and your family stay in the home. 

What if I need to move to escape the abuse?

If you have a Section 8 voucher, VAWA states that the housing authority may permit you to move and keep your voucher, even if your lease has not ended. The housing authority may ask you to prove that you are moving because of violence.

VAWA does not cover emergency moves for public housing tenants. You can still ask the housing authority to transfer you to another unit. The housing authority may ask you to put your request in writing and to prove that you are moving for safety reasons.

How do I prove that I can use VAWA’s protections? 

To see if you can use VAWA, the housing authority or your landlord may ask for information or “certification” showing that you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking. There are three ways you can show that you are a victim:

  • Complete a certification form. The form will ask for your name, the name of your abuser, the abuser’s relationship to you, the date, time and place of the violence, and a description of the violence. To get the form, call the housing authority or a legal aid office.
  • Provide a letter signed by a victim service provider, attorney, or medical professional who has helped you with the abuse. You must also sign this letter.
  • Provide a police or court record, such as a restraining order. The housing authority or your landlord must give you at least 14 business days (weekends and holidays do not count) to provide proof of the violence. 

Can a housing provider share the information I provide about the abuse with others?

No. The housing authority or landlord cannot give the information you provide about the abuse to others. The information may be shared if you agree in writing, or if it is needed to evict the abuser from the housing.

Does this mean that a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking cannot be evicted at all? 

No. You can still be evicted for serious or repeated lease violations that aren’t related to the abuse. The landlord or housing authority must hold you to the same standard as other tenants. If you receive any type of eviction notice, call your legal aid office immediately. 

What can I do to enforce these rights? 

If you believe your housing authority or landlord isn’t following VAWA, contact an attorney, fair housing agency, or domestic violence agency. They can help explain your rights and options. 

Who else can I call for help?

Other helpful numbers:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline — 1-800-799-7233
  • Florida Domestic Violence Hotline—1-800-500-1119

Updated: May 4, 2017 

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