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Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Protections Under the Fair Housing Act and LAVAWA

Posted on 02. Apr, 2019 by

Illustration that reads "sexual assault awareness month, wear teal, day of action, 4-2-2019" with multiracial fists lined up next to each other with teal sleeves showing.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and we here at GNOFHAC support survivors. We believe you, and we want to ensure anyone who has or could potentially face a form of sexual assault or harassment is aware of the housing protections that exist to keep you safe.

The Fair Housing Act protects against two main types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile environment. Quid pro quo, or “this for that,” sexual harassment occurs when a housing provider or their employee requires sexual acts in exchange for housing or housing-related transactions like repairs. Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when a housing provider or their employee creates an environment of unwanted, severe, and/or pervasive sexual behavior that negatively affects a tenant. As Cashauna Hill, GNOFHAC’s Executive Director points out, “We often think of sexual harassment and discrimination as a workplace issue, but landlords are just as likely to abuse the power they hold over current and prospective tenants.

In 2015, GNOFHAC, the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence and partners from across the state succeeded in passing the Louisiana Violence Against Women Act to protect the housing rights of survivors of domestic violence. These protections, as well as others under the federal Violence Against Women Act, often protect survivors of sexual harassment or assault. There are four important provisions:

  1. Survivors cannot be evicted or penalized for calling for emergency assistance. It’s against the law for a housing provider to have a “zero tolerance” policy for police visits in their lease.
  2. Survivors cannot be evicted because of the violence of their abuser. Survivors are often evicted due to the actions of an abuser regardless of whether or not the abuser lived on the property. This law not only protects survivors against court-ordered evictions, but also against other types of evictions, like a notice to vacate or refusal to renew a month-to-month lease.
  3. Survivors cannot be denied housing solely because they have experienced past abuse. Shelters often report that if a survivor lists a domestic violence shelter as a previous residence on a housing application, they have more trouble finding new housing. Under the new law, a landlord or leasing agent cannot refuse to provide housing to someone solely because they have experienced domestic violence.
  4. Survivors can terminate a lease early if they need to. Survivors who need to leave their home due to domestic violence must be allowed to do so without forfeiting their security deposit or facing any other penalty.

The Louisiana Violence Against Women Act and other similar laws offer important protections, but many tenants in Louisiana are not aware of their rights. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or other gender based violence and you have questions about your housing rights, call the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center at 1-877-445-2100. You can also contact the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence at 1-888-411-1333 or the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault at 1-888-995-7273.

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