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Housing Rights for Victims of Family Violence

Protective Orders

This article provides an overview of your housing rights as a victim of family violence.

Here, learn about your housing rights as a victim of family violence, including early lease termination, public housing rights, kick-out orders, the Address Confidentiality Program, seeking emergency assistance, and utility deposit waivers. 

This article was compiled from information written by the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Texas Council on Family Violence.  

Revised by on December 26, 2022.  

What if I need to get out of a lease because of family violence?

If you, or someone living in your home is a victim of family violence you may be eligible to terminate your lease without penalty.   

To learn more, visit Early Lease Termination for Victims of Family Violence on

Is it possible to force an abuser to leave the home?

Yes. It is possible to force an abuser to leave the home. Apply for a protective order that specifically asks for a kick-out order. To learn more, visit Kick-Out Orders on 

What protections do I have if I live in public housing?

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides housing protections for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking. Despite the name of the law, VAWA’s protections apply regardless of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. 

If you are applying for, receiving assistance under, or living in public housing, any housing operated by a public housing authority, voucher programs, homeless assistance programs, federally assisted housing for persons with disabilities or for elderly persons, or any other housing receiving assistance from HUD, you may have housing protections under VAWA. If you are a tenant in a HUD-funded program, certain VAWA protections may also apply to other residents and persons associated with you, including residents and affiliated individuals. 

VAWA applies to many different HUD grantees under what are called “covered housing programs.” HUD’s covered housing programs include: 

  • Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, including the direct loan program under Section 202; 


  • Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities; 


  • Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program; 


  • Homeless programs under title IV of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, including the Emergency Solutions Grants program, the Continuum of Care program, and the Rural Housing Stability Assistance program; 


  • HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program; 


  • Multifamily rental housing under section 221(d)(3)/(d)(5) of the National Housing Act with a below-market interest rate (BMIR); 


  • Multifamily rental housing under section 236 of the National Housing Act; 

  • HUD programs assisted under the United States Housing Act of 1937; specifically, public housing under section 6 of the 1937 Act, tenant-based and project-based rental assistance under section 8 of the 1937 Act, and the Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy; 


  • Housing Trust Fund; and 


  • Other Federal housing programs that provide affordable housing to low and moderate-income persons through restricted rents or rental assistance, or other affordable housing opportunities, which HUD identifies as covered by VAWA. This will ordinarily occur in a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). 

VAWA also protects your right to report crime and emergencies from your home, regardless of whether your housing is assisted under a covered housing program.  


VAWA’s protections include, for example: 

  • Non-discrimination:  


It is illegal to deny you admission to or assistance under, or to evict you from or terminate your participation in, a covered housing program if you or a member of your household is or has been a survivor of VAWA violence/abuse. You or a member of your household must be otherwise eligible for the program. In addition, it is illegal to deny you tenancy or occupancy rights (for example, you cannot be evicted) in a covered housing program solely on the basis of criminal activity directly relating to the VAWA violence/abuse. HUD refers to these protections as VAWA’s “core” housing protections.   


  • Notification of Occupancy Rights:  


If you are an applicant or tenant, a covered housing provider must provide to you two HUD-approved documents:  


  • (1) Notice of Occupancy Rights under VAWA, and  


  • (2) VAWA certification form. The covered housing provider must provide you these forms at certain specified times.   


  • Emergency Transfers:  


You can request an emergency transfer for you and your household in a covered housing program if you:  


  • (1) expressly request the transfer; and  


  • (2)(a) you reasonably believe there is a threat of imminent harm from further violence if you remain in the same unit; or  


  • (2)(b) in the case of sexual assault, the sexual assault occurred at your housing during the 90-calendar-day period preceding the date of the transfer request.  


Public housing agencies and other covered housing programs must adopt an emergency transfer plan based on a model plan from HUD. This emergency transfer plan must, among other requirements, allow you to make an internal emergency transfer (to a unit where you would not be categorized as a new applicant) when a safe unit is immediately available. A safe unit is a unit that you believe is safe.   


  • Confidentiality Requirements:  


Covered housing providers have specific obligations to maintain the confidentiality of the fact that a person is a survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Any information you provide under VAWA’s housing protections, including the fact that you are a VAWA survivor, must be kept confidential by the covered housing provider. These obligations include keeping any such information out of a shared database and not disclosing such information to others unless you consent in writing to such disclosure, it is required for use in an eviction proceeding, or the law otherwise requires it. If your information is used by a covered housing provider in violation of the confidentiality requirements, you may file a complaint with HUD.  


  • Documentation:  


If you inform a public housing agency or owner or manager of housing assisted under a covered housing program that you are a survivor of VAWA violence/abuse entitled to VAWA protections, the covered housing provider may request, in writing, that you submit documentation of the occurrence of the domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. If your housing provider simply provides a VAWA reporting form to you, without a dated letter requesting documentation, the housing provider has not sufficiently made the request in writing. You have the discretion to choose which documentation to provide from the list identified in HUD’s VAWA rule, unless there is conflicting information of VAWA violence/abuse. For example, a housing provider may not require a police report to provide VAWA housing protections (but you may choose to provide one).   


  • Lease Bifurcation:  


VAWA protects you and other members of your household when a covered housing provider removes a household member from a lease, in order to evict, remove, terminate occupancy rights, or terminate assistance to a household member who engages in criminal activity directly relating to VAWA violence/abuse (known as “bifurcating” a lease). Your housing provider may choose whether to bifurcate the lease, and if it is done, it must be done consistent with applicable federal, state, or local laws and the requirements of your covered housing program. In the event of a lease bifurcation, if the household member who was removed was the tenant who made your household eligible for assistance under your covered housing program, your housing provider must give those who remain a reasonable time to establish eligibility under the same program, under a different program, or to find other housing. While this is generally 90 days, it may be a different amount of time, depending on which covered housing program you are participating in.  


  • Prohibition on Retaliation:  


It is illegal for a public housing agency or an owner or manager of housing assisted under a covered housing program to retaliate against you because you opposed any action they took or practice they have that is prohibited by VAWA. The housing provider also cannot subject you to retaliation, coercion, intimidation, or threats because you testified, assisted, or participated in an action to enforce your VAWA rights, including encouraging another or exercising your own rights under VAWA. This includes retaliating against you for filing a complaint with FHEO or another entity, or for participating in an investigation of your own complaint or another complaint by giving information as a witness. This right applies even if you did not file a complaint over what you believe was the initial violation of VAWA rights or if you filed such a complaint and received a determination that there is no reasonable cause to believe that a VAWA violation occurred or is about to occur.   


  • The Right to Report Crime and Emergencies from One’s Home:  


Landlords, homeowners, tenants, residents, occupants, guests of, or applicants for, any housing have the right to seek law enforcement or emergency assistance on their own behalf or on behalf of another person in need of assistance. They may not be penalized based on their requests for assistance, based on criminal activity for which they are a victim, or based on activity for which they are otherwise not at fault under a law, ordinance, regulation, or policy adopted by or enforced by a governmental entity that receives certain HUD funding.  


This means it is unlawful to threaten or subject individuals seeking assistance to any of the following:  


  • monetary or criminal penalties, fines, or fees;  


  • eviction;  


  • refusals to rent or renew tenancy;  


  • refusals to issue an occupancy or landlord permit;  


  • withdrawing certifications or permits for operation of the property; and  


  • designation of the property as a nuisance or a similar negative designation.   


Your housing provider may give you a written request that asks you to submit documentation about the incident or incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  

In response to this request, you or someone on your behalf may complete the optional form HUD-5382 Certification of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking, and Alternate Documentation and submit it to your housing provider.  

Learn more and access additional forms at Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Resources for Multifamily Assisted Housing on the HUD website

What if my VAWA rights were violated?

If you believe your VAWA rights have been violated, you can visit this link to file a complaint with HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO).  You can also find out more about the complaint process.  These sites provide information in multiple languages and include instructions for filing a complaint online on HUD’s website and by email, mail, or telephone.  

Note: HUD is currently updating its complaint form to include VAWA protections. However, you may still use the current complaint form to file a VAWA complaint.  On the complaint form, please explain in the narrative section why you believe your VAWA rights were violated. 

What is the Address Confidentiality Program?

If you’ve been the victim of family violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, or stalking, the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) can help you keep your address confidential. 

The ACP provides a substitute post office box address and mail forwarding service. 

This helps prevent your actual address from being revealed in state government documents and files while still allowing you to receive and send mail. You can use this substitute P.O. box instead of your actual address on forms, such as driver's license, voter registration and school registration.  

The ACP doesn't guarantee safety, and it's not a witness protection program, but it's a helpful part of an overall safety strategy.  

Note: Nongovernmental organizations, such as banks and private utilities, are not required to accept this substitute address. But if you describe why you use it, some of these organizations may do so.  

How do I apply for the ACP?

To apply to the ACP, you must complete an application and can do so by: 

  • Meeting with a victim’s assistance counselor from a state or local agency or other organization that provides shelter or legal services to eligible victims, or 


  • Completing an application on your own and providing a copy of a protective order or temporary injunction in place, or documentation of family violence, sexual assault or stalking 


When you complete the application, you are designating the attorney general to receive mail on behalf of the victim and all family members who reside with the victim. 

Download an application and the Address Confidentiality Checklist or call the ACP at (888) 832-2322 to request an application. 

What happens when my ACP application is approved?

You will receive an authorization card from the ACP that includes your substitute post office box address. You can use this address to receive first-class mail and legal documents.  

All first-class mail and legal documents will be promptly forwarded to your physical address. Mail such as magazines, catalogs and packages (including medical prescriptions) will not be forwarded. 

You must renew participation every three years. 

Can my landlord evict me for calling the police to respond to domestic violence?

If you are a victim of family violence renting in Texas, you have the right to seek police or emergency assistance in response to family violence at any time. A landlord cannot evict or penalize you for the presence of police or emergency assistance at your residence due to family violence. A landlord cannot ask you to waive this right in a lease or at any point. 

Can I get a utility deposit waiver if I am a victim of family violence?

If you are a victim of family violence, you may be able to get deposits for utilities such as gas, telephone, and electricity services waived. 

To learn more, visit How to get a Utility Service Deposit Waiver for Victims of Family Violence and Other Victims of Crime on 

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