NYSCADV MEMORANDUM OF SUPPORT 

A.6354A Peoples-Stokes

PREVENT HOUSING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Access to stable housing is often essential for survivors to maintain safety and independence from their abusers. NYSCADV urges the New York State Legislature to protect victims of domestic violence against housing discrimination by adding them as a protected class in Human Rights Law. 

OVERVIEW 

The New York State Legislature has passed many laws over the last 30 years to create mechanisms to enhance safety for victims of domestic violence, including emergency shelter and other services supportive of relocation. But these services cannot work to their fullest extent as long as there are barriers preventing victims from moving forward. One of these barriers is the discrimination that victims of domestic violence face in trying to rent, lease or buy housing. Landlords and sellers of property should not be permitted to discriminate against victims of domestic violence based on assumptions about the effect that their tenancy or home ownership may have on property or persons. However, studies show that when potential landlords identify that the perspective tenant is a victim of domestic violence, they frequently refuse to rent what is available or express that there is no availability. 

This discrimination also translates into victims of domestic violence being evicted because of the behavior that their abuser chooses to use. For example, victims who call the police to enforce orders of protection are identified as a nuisance by their landlord and evicted, yet the victim is doing what the court, and society, instructs them to do. Allowing victims of domestic violence to lose their housing through discrimination puts families at risk and increases costs to communities who must consequently provide additional services to survivors and their children. 

THIS MEASURE WILL HELP SURVIVORS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE FIND AND KEEPING PERMANENT HOUSING 

  • Landlords and sellers of property should not be permitted to discriminate against domestic violence survivors based upon assumptions about the effect that their tenancy or home ownership may have on property or other persons. 
  • For survivors and their children, accessing permanent housing is fundamental to finding safety. 
  • Many survivors are unable to find a place to live and are forced to return to their abusers, sleep in their cars, or end up homeless. 

PROTECTING VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AGAINST DISCRIMINATION 

The federal government has laws that prevent federally subsidized housing authorities from discriminating against victims of domestic violence, but it is up to the state to protect victims from private landlords. This bill would: 

  • Add victims of domestic violence as a protected class under the section of New York Human Rights Law governing housing discrimination. 
  • Amend the Real Property Law by adding a section that protects victims of domestic violence from being evicted based on their status as a victim of domestic violence. 

By amending the Human Rights Law, victims of domestic violence would be protected from: 

  • discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort or amusement 
  • being refused the right to buy, rent or lease housing accommodations 
  • being discriminated against in the terms, conditions or privileges of public housing accommodations 
  • parties inquiring about or recording their status as a victim of domestic violence for the purpose of renting public housing accommodations 
  • having real estate agents and other similar parties disclose a victim of domestic violence’s status to the neighborhood or area to which they move 

This bill does not prohibit inquiries about or retention of information about an individual's domestic violence victim status solely for the purpose of: 

  • providing or preserving residency in any public or private housing for that victim of domestic violence; 
  • providing any other assistance to a victim of domestic violence, the purpose of which is to assist rather than to hinder obtaining or retaining any public or private housing; or 
  • responding to an inquiry or request by an applicant, tenant, or leaseholder that is a victim of domestic violence. 

By amending the Real Property Law, this bill would make it illegal for a landlord to evict, or attempt to evict a tenant because of their status as a victim of domestic violence. It would give victims of domestic violence being evicted because of their victim status the ability to defend themselves in housing court and potentially save their housing. 

Passing this legislation takes a meaningful step toward eliminating one of the primary reasons survivors lose their housing.