Fair Housing Center Finds Discrimination Against Domestic Abuse Survivors

stock photo of a "for rent" sign
Eight municipalities in Cuyahoga County have ordinances that include domestic violence as a "nuisance activity," which can cause domestic violence victims to be evicted. [Ksenia Ragozina / shutterstock]
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A new study from the Fair Housing Center for Rights and Research finds landlords in Cuyahoga County discriminate against domestic violence survivors. 

The study tested for landlord discrimination by having either a domestic violence survivor or advocate inquire about a rental. They also used a control group to inquire with the same landlords.

It found discrimination in 36 percent of the responses.

“The unfavorable treatment that we saw in our testing, that certainly was a bit more subtle,” said Fair Housing Center researcher and study co-author Lenore Mangiarelli. 

It included unreturned calls, higher utility payments and security deposits, and more extensive background checks than were asked of applicants without histories of domestic violence.

“It can also be denials of not setting up an appointment, not allowing them to see the home,” said Mangiarelli.  

While the federal Fair Housing Act doesn’t explicitly protect domestic violence survivors, the Fair Housing Center argues in the study that there is a legal case for sex discrimination claims against landlords.

The authors also surveyed 30 women who survived domestic violence about their experiences finding housing. 

In some Cuyahoga County cities, domestic violence-related calls to the police can lead to eviction under criminal activity nuisance ordinances, or CANOs.

About 13 percent reported evictions after domestic violence calls and 17 percent became homeless.

A fifth of the women said they were discouraged from calling 911 again to avoid eviction.

The report called for the countywide repeal of all CANOs and education programs for landlords and survivors on housing discrimination.

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