The property management industry, traditionally seen through the lens of real estate and tenant relations, might not immediately come to mind when discussing legislation like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). However, VAWA’s provisions intricately intersect with the rights and responsibilities of property managers and landlords in the U.S., emphasizing the importance of creating safe environments for women and all residents. The question then arises: How does VAWA influence property management, and why is this nexus crucial for industry professionals to understand?
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What is VAWA?
VAWA is a federal law meant to protect victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. While it was initially focused on protecting women, it does protect both genders.
How does this law impact property management?
Federally-funded properties and most low-income tax credit properties have to follow detailed regulations for how to handle situations involving domestic violence or other VAWA crimes. Specific procedures are dictated by the law to ensure that housing providers cannot deny tenancy to victims of crimes set out in VAWA.
Private-market properties are covered in a more general way but should be careful whenever addressing a situation involving domestic violence to make sure not to further victimize the victims of violence by holding them responsible for any situation that is out of their control.
Can residents still be cited for disruptive behavior? What if the police are constantly being called?
Be aware that mere police calls cannot be the reason for terminating a resident, especially if the resident is female. Calling the police is often the only act a victim of domestic violence can take to protect herself. An effort should be made to find out who is the perpetrator of the violence. This can be difficult, but it may be useful to review the police reports or try to ascertain who the police are holding responsible.
You may encounter many different scenarios which will make choosing the best course of action difficult. For instance, both parties may be guilty of violence, or perhaps the victim keeps allowing the perpetrator access to their home. Opening a dialogue is crucial, along with careful documentation.
If, throughout your investigation, the resident refuses to take actionable steps to avoid future violence, only then can the housing provider warn the resident of the potential consequences of lease violation. If the problem persists, then the housing provider could justify the termination of the lease for the resident.
The far-reaching implications of VAWA extend beyond its direct intent to protect women from violence, carving a distinct role for property management. As the industry navigates the complex terrain of tenant rights, safety protocols, and legal responsibilities, understanding VAWA’s mandates becomes indispensable.
The act not only emphasizes the moral duty but also the legal obligation property managers have to ensure the safety and rights of their residents. Training becomes imperative to aid in navigating these complex situations to ensure that fair housing is at the forefront.