Special Laws to Help Domestic Violence Survivors (Vouchers & Low Income Housing)

If you are a survivor of domestic violence, there are special laws that can help you get, keep, or use affordable housing.

There are two different ways that you may be able to get extra help and protection for your housing.

Some people don’t realize that two different methods are possible (or that one of these methods tends to be easier and more effective to use!)

Here’s a description of each method:

Method 1: VAWA Laws

VAWA is a special law designed to help support and protect domestic violence survivors.

VAWA stands for “violence against women act.” However, you do not need to be a woman to use these laws. These laws are available to help protect any person of any gender. You can also use them on behalf of your children or another household member.

The VAWA laws will not help with all housing problems, but they can be very useful in certain situations. Here are some examples of times when the VAWA laws may be very helpful. If you are in any of these situations and the problem is related to domestic violence:

🌸 You have been evicted or are under threat of eviction

🌸 You are losing your housing voucher or have lost it already

🌸 You want to move and you were told you cannot move

🌸 You want to move and you were told you cannot move

🌸 You want to break your lease and you are told you cannot

🌸 You apply for housing and get turned down because of credit history, criminal record, or past evictions.

You may be reading this thinking “but my housing problem was not caused by domestic violence.“ Please take a moment to learn more. You may not realize at first that your situation will qualify for these protections. Here’s where you can find some examples of situations that do not at first seem like they are connected to domestic violence, but actually are eligible for protect: Examples of Housing Problems and VAWA Protections

Learn more about how to use the VAWA laws here:

Method 2: Reasonable Accommodations

Another approach is to request a reasonable accommodation as a person with disabilities. Many of our readers report that these laws were much more helpful in getting their problems solved.

Even if you have not been labeled as “disabled” in the past, it may be possible to still make this request. Many of our readers who are escaping domestic violence report that serious mental health symptoms or post traumatic stress disorder began as a result of this experience.
If you, or your children, or another member of your household is experiencing significant mental health distress, you may be eligible for a disability accommodation. You do not need to be approved for disability by the Social Security administration or by any other agency. What do you need is support from your doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist. Your practitioner would need to agree with the following:

Your mental health symptoms are significantly limiting your ability to function in at least one major life area. Or this is happening to your child or another member of your household. Here’s where you can look to find out more about: Fair Housing Act Definition of Disability

As part of their process of requesting a reasonable accommodation, your doctor will need to fill out a form or write a letter. They will need to include one sentence stating that you meet the fair housing act definition of disability. That is all of the evidence that you will need in order to be eligible to apply for an accommodation.

There are quite a lot of different reasonable accommodations that you can request in order to help with your housing. Examples of disability accommodations include:

🌸 Approval to move even when you have been told that you are not allowed to

🌸 Approval to keep an assistance animal in a building that does not normally allow pets

🌸 Approval to have a caregiver live with you

🌸 Approval to have another person live with you even if you have been told this would not be allowed

🌸 Approval for more time to find a landlord, even if you have been told you cannot request more time

🌸 Additional bedrooms for you or your children

🌸 A higher voucher that will help you to rent the best place for your family

This is just a short list, and there are many many other reasonable accommodation request so you can make. You can find a more complete list here: Epic Master List of Disability Accommodation Letters for Housing

Tip For Using These Laws

Our readers report that the VAWA laws are not as helpful as the disability accommodation laws. 

Some people have had difficulty getting their housing authorities to follow the VAWA laws. On the other hand, nearly all of our readers have success with requesting disability accommodations, as long as their request is properly documented, and they are willing to be persistent. Sometimes it is not properly documented the first time they submit it, but they can use the tools on our website, resubmit this request, and this is nearly always successful.

If you are trying to decide which set of laws to use, you might want to start with making a reasonable accommodation request. Or you can use both at once!