Public Housing Notice 2005-05
To: All Local Housing Authorities
From: Carole Collins, Director
Bureau of Housing Management
Subject: Domestic Violence Priority Status
Date: August 1, 2005
The Governor's Commission on Domestic Violence was established by the Weld/Cellucci
administration in April 1992, shortly after domestic violence was declared a
public health emergency in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Advisory
Commission was formed in order to make recommendations to the Governor
addressing this state of emergency. The Commission, through its
multi-disciplinary membership, actively proposes innovative and coordinated
policies to address domestic violence at the highest levels of state government.
The Commission is currently chaired by Governor Mitt Romney.
Recently DHCD staff met with members of the Housing and Homelessness
Subcommittee of the Governor’s Commission on Sexual and Domestic Violence to
discuss impediments that survivors of domestic and sexual violence encounter as
they relate to applying for and residing in public housing. The Committee
Members sought to have special preference or priority given to survivors of such
crimes. After lengthy discussions, we determined that changes to our
regulations were not necessary in that the Emergency Case Plan, when correctly
interpreted and applied by LHAs, provides relief in appropriate circumstances.
Recognizing that there has been a high turnover of LHA staff in the last few
years due to early retirement at many LHAs, the enclosed memorandum, that was
first issued by this office on September 9, 1996, is being reissued to all LHAs.
The major thrust of this memorandum explains the verification that LHAs may
require of applicants requesting Emergency Case status because of an Abusive
Situation, and makes clear that an LHA may not insist upon any one form of
verification, such as a restraining order against the abuser. It should
also be noted that the term “domestic violence” includes sexual assault in
accordance with the definition contained in the Abuse Prevention Act (G.L. c.
209A,§1), and the same types of documentation should be considered in the case
of sexual assault victims.
In addition to notifying LHAs of the reissuance of that important memorandum
from 1996, the purpose of this memorandum is to inform LHAs of the position that
DHCD has taken in response to the Committee’s recommendations regarding tenants
and applicants who are survivors of domestic or sexual violence, and our intent
to ensure that LHAs act accordingly. The following are clarifications to
the DHCD regulations and guidelines regarding applicants and tenants of
state-aided housing. Note that where ever the words “applicant” or
“tenant” appear, these terms are meant to include members of the applicant or
tenant household as applicable.
Current or former LHA tenants with documentation showing that they are victims
of domestic violence at their housing authority unit shall be considered in an
Abusive Situation under another LHA’s Emergency Case Plan and be eligible for
Emergency Case status at another housing authority. As in the grant of any
Abusive Situation priority, the housing for which the application is made must
place the applicant a reasonable distance away from the abuser(s). Since
applicants determined by the LHA to be in an Abusive Situation will be offered
housing ahead of other needy individuals or families on the LHA’s waiting list,
the abuser must not be part of the applicant household, and the applicant must
sign a form (see attached) certifying that the applicant realizes that he/she
will be evicted if he/she allows the abuser to reside with him/her.
If evidence is provided, and the housing authority feels confident that the
abuser has been rehabilitated, the LHA may give written permission to add the
former abuser to the lease in accordance with the provisions in the definition
of Family (Household) at 760 CMR 5.03.
If an existing tenant is a documented victim of domestic violence and removes
the abuser from the unit, the LHA shall not evict the remaining household
members for damage or disturbance caused by the abuser.
Upon notification that an existing tenant is a documented victim of domestic
violence and has removed the abuser from the unit, the LHA shall recalculate the
household rent subtracting the abuser’s income from the household’s total
income. In accordance with 760 CMR 6.04(3)(b), there may be good cause for
a waiver of any late fees and interest that might otherwise have been charged if
the tenant fails to pay the rent until the amount of rent has been recalculated
after the removal of an abuser from the household.
The DHCD form lease for public housing includes a provision in Section VIII.(S)
of the Landlord Obligations that an LHA provide reasonable and appropriate
assistance to a tenant who is a victim of domestic violence. Such
reasonable and appropriate assistance may include granting the tenant a transfer
for administrative reasons in accordance with the definition at 760 CMR 5.03.
Where the abuser is not a member of a tenant household, in appropriate
circumstances, the LHA may seek a court order to prohibit the abuser from
entering or remaining upon LHA property in accordance with G.L. c.121B, §
LHAs must comply with the definition of Family(Household) at 760 CMR 5.03, which
allows a Massachusetts court with jurisdiction to determine who shall be
entitled to the public housing tenancy in the event of the break up of the
tenant family. When the issue arises, LHAs should inform tenants and the
courts of the existence of this regulation.
Applicants who have been displaced by an “Abusive Situation” are not required to
be in a continuing situation of immediate risk of harm in order to be eligible
for the priority under the Emergency Case Plan. Such applicants must only
show that domestic violence was the cause of their homelessness.
While victims of sexual violence not constituting “domestic violence” as defined
by the Abuse Prevention Act do not receive priority based on that fact alone, if
the victim becomes homeless as a consequence of the sexual violence, he/she may
be eligible for the Homeless priority under the Emergency Case Plan. As in
cases of Domestic Violence, there should be a presumption that victims did not
contribute to their circumstances. If actual or feared contact with the
perpetrator in the present housing has caused severe medical or psychiatric
illness, applicants should be granted a priority for a Severe Medical Emergency
under the LHA’s Emergency Case Plan.
When an LHA determines that an applicant may be disqualified for housing because
of damage or disturbance at a prior tenancy, if the applicant shows that she/he
was a victim of domestic abuse or sexual violence and that the damage or
disturbance was caused by the perpetrator of domestic abuse or sexual violence,
then these facts shall be considered by the LHA as mitigating circumstances
pursuant to 760 CMR 5.08(2).
Because of the complex and sensitive nature of the determinations that must be
made in state-aided housing regarding survivors of domestic abuse and sexual
violence, and, in light of the significant staff turnover at LHAs, I am asking
the Regional Attorneys to conduct regional workshops and trainings on these and
other tenant selection issues. You should be receiving information from
them shortly scheduling these important educational events.
(Sample certification for applicant granted Abusive Situation priority)
In recognition of the fact that I have been granted a priority that will require
the ____________Housing Authority (__HA) to offer me housing ahead of other
applicants on its waiting list, I, _________________________(Applicant’s
name) hereby certify that _________________________(name of former abuser)
will not reside with my family and me in __HA housing unless I apply to the _HA
to add him/her to my household and the __HA gives advance written approval.
I understand that if _______________________________ (name of former abuser)
returns to my household without prior approval then this will be grounds for the
__HA to terminate my lease and to initiate eviction proceedings against me.
Signed this day of _________________________, 20__.
Under the pains and penalties of perjury.