Women's Rights

End to Nuisance Orders affecting Survivors of Domestic Violence

09.21.16

Twenty-eight U.S. Senators submitted a letter to the Honorable Julian Castro, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), expressing their support for HUD’s efforts to combat discriminatory nuisance ordinances that unfairly target survivors of domestic violence. Many nuisance laws attempt to abate unreasonable or unlawful use of property, or disturbances of the peace, that may be an annoyance to the general public. While nuisance laws purport to create safe neighborhoods, they can unfairly target survivors of domestic violence, who are often found in violation of these ordinances because of behaviors initiated by their partners. If found guilty of too many violations, tenants must be evicted, or their landlords can face penalties ranging from significant fines to loss of rental permits or property foreclosure. The collateral effect of eviction places survivors at risk for homelessness and increased vulnerability.

Specific instances of nuisance ordinances placing additional burdens on survivors of domestic violence have been documented in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and Berlin, New Hampshire, where both municipalities passed strict laws. Signatories to the letter end their appeal by urging HUD to ensure tenants can maintain secure housing and necessary emergency assistance without fear of eviction because of mandated consequences imposed by local nuisance regulations.