Evicted for Calling 911? How Advocates Can Fight Back.

A domestic violence survivor comes to you with an eviction notice. The reason? Multiple 911 calls. In other words, the survivor suffered abuse at home and called for help. How do you make sure they aren’t improperly evicted?

If your client lives in a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) property, there are protections under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but enforcement isn’t always automatic. This post teaches you: 1) how to identify LIHTC units; 2) the VAWA rights for persons in LIHTC units; and 3) first steps to take if you are seeing a systemic problem.

[NOTE: There are also VAWA protections for other property types, protections for survivors under the Fair Housing Act, and there may also be applicable state or local laws.]

Is your client in an LIHTC property?

LIHTC properties aren’t always easy to identify. Here’s a quick checklist of places to look:

  1. Ask your client. They may know but often do not.
  2. Read the lease and any addendums.
  3. Check one of the online LIHTC databases (I like Novogradic’s LIHTC Mapping Tool –  search by street address; click on nearby triangles to see if you have a match).
  4. Google the property name and “LIHTC.”
  5. Call the property manager and ask (they also may not know).
  6. Contact the state housing finance agency, which manages the LIHTC program in your state.

Is your client in an LIHTC unit?

In most cases, all the units in a LIHTC property will be LIHTC units. However, in some cases, the property will be mixed income. Tenants living in non-LIHTC units do not have the protections described in this post, but may have other protections (see “Note” above).

Here are some steps to take to try to confirm your client is in an LIHTC unit:

  1. The lease or lease addendum may say that the unit rented is a LIHTC unit.
  2. The LIHTC Mapping Tool has information (for most properties) about the total number of units and the number of low-income units. Click on the second tab of the pop-up to find this information.
  3. If your client’s rent is at or below the maximum they may well be in an LIHTC unit (to get the LIHTC maximum rent, try searching for the name of your state housing finance agency with the phrase “LIHTC maximum rent.” To confirm, call your local housing finance agency and ask to speak to the person who administers the LIHTC program.

My client is in an LIHTC unit. Now what?

He/she cannot be:

  1. denied a unit because they are victims or threatened victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking;
  2. evicted from a unit because they are victims or threatened victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking; or
  3. denied assistance, tenancy, or occupancy solely on the basis of criminal activity (where the criminal activity is intimate partner violence or sexual assault and your client is a victim).

Unfortunately, many key people — the building owner, property manager, eviction attorney, and courts — may not know about these protections. Your job will be to educate everyone involved.

To learn more about the legal protections for survivors living in LIHTC units and the unevenness among the states in spreading the word about those rights, read our May 2017 joint report Protections Delayed: State Housing Finance Agency Compliance With The Violence Against Women Act.

I keep seeing the same problem over and over.

If you are seeing survivors improperly threatened with eviction over and over, additional steps are needed. Check out how your state ranked in the Protections Delayed report. If they didn’t respond or responded poorly, you probably need to start thinking about engaging in advocacy related to how the LIHTC program is administered in your state.  RHLS is working on a series of posts and infographics to help you understand how to get involved. To get started, see our infographics on how the LIHTC program works,  LIHTC Legal Advocacy, and QAP Advocacy.

Additional questions? Email me – rblake (at) rhls (dot) org.