Equal Opportunity For All
Freedom From Ethnic And Racial Profiling For Everyone
Policy Library

Stop Evicting Survivors of Domestic Violence and Crime Victims for Seeking Help

Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness among women, with severe impacts on health and life expectancy. These threats are heightened by laws that allow residents to be punished and even evicted for calling 911. In other words, calling for help can get you thrown out on the street. When violence occurs, people seeking help must not be intimidated. The Right to Call for Help Act ensures that domestic violence survivors and crime victims are able to call for help without fear of losing their homes.

The National Landscape

Passed in:

California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Pennsylvania

Introduced in:

New York

In The News

“Simply put, nuisance ordinances that penalize crime victims and others needing emergency help are bad public policy. These mandates hurt victims of crime, including survivors of domestic violence. Research has also chronicled the negative impacts of such ordinances on persons with disabilities and people of color.”
“Kathleen O’Reilly Farhat looks forward to the day she can pay for college for her two young sons. That will be cheaper than child care.”

Partners

  • Survivors of domestic violence
  • Public safety advocates
  • Women’s and LGBTQ advocates
  • Groups working to end homelessness
  • Crime victims

Opposition

  • Landlords focused on evictions
Call us for real-time support using this library, problem-solving tips, and follow-up from our team of national experts:
The State Line
1-833-
STATES-1

FAQ

Who does this help?
This policy helps all residents who may be threatened in their homes by removing the threat of eviction when they call for help. Women, people of color, people with disabilities and those in rural areas face especially acute challenges finding shelter when they are evicted -- calling for emergency assistance to prevent crime and abuse should never lead down that path.
How does this make communities safer?
When crime and abuse victims can’t call the police out of fear of losing their homes, those victims, and their families, neighbors and whole communities are put at risk. Encouraging reporting of crime and domestic violence helps law enforcement do their job.
Does this involve a new government bureaucracy to administer?
No. This model policy merely removes overbroad rules that permit eviction when some call for emergency assistance.
Does this help the lowest-income families who have low tax burdens?
There are childcare support programs in most states to provide help to the lowest-income families. In states with waiting lists for those programs, the Childcare Advance can be introduced together with a proposal to expand or enhance existing programs.
Print

Model Policy

SECTION 1 (TITLE):
This act shall be known as the The Right to Call for Help Act.

SECTION 2 (PURPOSE):
This Act removes the threat of punishment and eviction for crime victims and people in emergency situations who call local emergency services for help

SECTION 3 (PROVISIONS):

(a) A landlord shall not prohibit or limit a resident’s or tenant’s rights to summon law enforcement assistance or other emergency assistance by or on behalf of a victim of abuse, a victim of a crime, or an individual in an emergency.

(b) A landlord shall not impose monetary or other penalties on a resident or tenant who exercises the resident’s or tenant’s right under section (a) above to summon law enforcement assistance or other emergency assistance. A resident or tenant may not waive and a landlord may not require waiver of the rights created in (a) above. Any purported waiver is contrary to public policy and void.

(c) Penalties prohibited by section (b) include all of the following:
  • (i) The actual or threatened assessment of penalties, fines, or fees.
  • (ii) The actual or threatened eviction, or causing the actual or threatened eviction, from the premises.

(d) This section does not prohibit a landlord from terminating, evicting, or refusing to renew a tenancy or rental agreement when such action is premised upon grounds other than the resident’s or tenant’s exercise of the right to summon law enforcement assistance or other emergency assistance by or on behalf of a victim of abuse, a victim of a crime, or an individual in an emergency.

(e) An ordinance, rule, or regulation of a city, county, or other governmental entity shall not authorize imposition of a penalty against a resident, owner, tenant, or landlord because the resident, owner, tenant, or landlord was a victim of abuse or crime.

(f) An ordinance, rule, or regulation of a city, county, or other governmental entity shall not authorize imposition of a penalty against a resident, owner, tenant or landlord because the resident, owner, tenant or landlord sought law enforcement assistance or other emergency assistance for a victim of abuse, a victim of a crime, or an individual in an emergency, if either of the following is established:
  • (i) The resident, owner, tenant or landlord seeking assistance had a reasonable belief that the emergency assistance was necessary to prevent the perpetration or escalation of the abuse, crime, or emergency.
  • (ii) In the event of abuse, crime, or other emergency, the emergency assistance was actually needed.

(g) Penalties prohibited by section (e) and (f) include all of the following:
  • (i) The actual or threatened assessment of penalties, fines, or fees.
  • (ii) The actual or threatened eviction, or causing the actual or threatened eviction, from the premises.
  • (iii) The actual or threatened revocation, suspension, or nonrenewal of a rental certificate, license, or permit.

(h) This subsection does not prohibit a city, county, or other governmental entity from enforcing any ordinance, rule, or regulation premised upon grounds other than a request for law enforcement assistance or other emergency assistance by a resident, owner, tenant, or landlord, or the fact that the resident, owner, tenant, or landlord was a victim of crime or abuse.

(i) In addition to other remedies provided by law, if an owner or landlord, including a city, county, or other governmental entity violates the provisions of this act, a resident or tenant is entitled to recover from the owner or landlord any of the following:
  • (i) A civil penalty in an amount equal to one month’s rent;
  • (ii) Actual damages;
  • (iii) Reasonable attorney fees the tenant or resident incurs in seeking enforcement of this act;
  • (iv) Court costs; and
  • (v) Injunctive relief, including reinstatement of a lease, rental certificate, license, or permit, as the court may deem appropriate.