Many landlords discriminate against domestic violence victims. Sometimes it is because of sexism and arrogance but it is also because it is believed that when violent confrontations between a couple result in disturbing neighbors or the police being called both tenants should be evicted. Of course this just compounds the suffering of the person being abused.
Federal, state and local Philadelphia laws prohibit housing discrimination against women. These laws not only prohibit discrimination based upon gender, they also prohibit housing policies which tend to hurt women more than men (i.e. policies which have a “disparate impact' on women). Evicting or refusing to rent to a woman because she is or has been the victim of domestic violence are examples of such a policies.
In June of 2011, Councilmember Bill Greenlee introduced an amendment to the Philadelphia Code section on Unfair Rental Practices that will prohibit housing discrimination against victims of domestic violence. This landmark legislation prohibits private landlords from refusing to rent to a person who was a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. It also allows victims in flight from such violence to get out of their leases.
It is in an effort to address this problem that the federal Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized in 2005. It contains important housing provisions which prohibit evicting or refusing to rent to women because they have been victims of criminal abuse. It also authorizes landlords to bifurcate leases so that the abusing partner can be evicted without evicting the victim. However, these federal provisions only apply to assisted housing such as Public Housing Agencies or Housing Voucher (Section 8) programs. The new legislation signed by the Mayor of Philadelphia in October, 20111, will expand these protections to include the private sector.
These protecitons will only be effective if they are well known by tenants. TURN needs your help in spreading the word. Click here to JOIN THE TURN NETWORK to help educate the public on these issues.