Part 2 - Crucial VAWA Questions Answered by HUD
HUD's recent explanation of its VAWA regulation provides guidance for HUD programs and a safe harbor for tax credit properties. This series discusses several of the key questions answered by the HUD VAWA final rule. NOTE: The regulation can be found HERE and are referenced in these articles starting with VAWA 2016 Fed.Reg. and then by page numbers of the PDF from the Federal Register found at the above link. The Rural Development follow-up is HERE.
Question 4: Can an owner/agent require that victims produce third-party documentation of their status as victims to prove that they qualify for VAWA protections and emergency transfer if the owner/agent suspects fraud?
Answer: No. It is easy to understand why people who work in affordable housing would ask this question. Nearly everything must be verified with knowledgeable third parties, and the term "documentation" generally does not include self-certification. However, VAWA provides a marked difference in this regard. While an owner may require documentation of a victim's status, one of the documentation options is self-certification. What is provided is at the discretion of the victim, and not the owner/agent. "HUD interprets VAWA to require that housing providers accept self-certification if that is the form that a tenant or applicant provides." The only exception is "cases involving conflicting evidence." (VAWA 2016 Fed.Reg. 80741, 80763)
Question 5: Are poor credit or criminal backgrounds something that an owner/agent has to consider as possibly protected for victims of VAWA violence?
Answer: It should not be ruled out that bad credit and criminal backgrounds may result directly from the fact that a person has been a victim of VAWA violence. A victim may seek protection from negative housing consequences as a result of such history. HUD interprets the term “on the basis” in VAWA 2013’s prohibitions against denying or terminating admission or assistance to include factors directly resulting from the domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. HUD lists as an example "if an individual has a poor rental or credit history, or a criminal record, or other adverse factors that directly result from being a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, the individual cannot be denied assistance under a HUD program if the individual otherwise qualifies for the program." To clarify this they added to the regulation that protections apply against negative actions taken "on the basis or as a direct result of the fact that the applicant or tenant is or has been a victim." [underlined emphasis ours] (VAWA 2016 Fed.Reg. 80729)