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Housing ordinances put victims of domestic violence in danger

In many areas of the U.S., including Illinois, “crime-free housing” ordinances could be putting victims of domestic violence in a dangerous and difficult position. Such ordinances stipulate that victims can call the police, but if they do, they could be evicted. According to the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, more than 100 municipalities in Illinois have implemented these types of ordinances.

The “crime-free housing” ordinances were originally intended to address the problem of “disruptive” tenants who have been visited by police on multiple occasions. The ordinances allow or even force landlords to threaten tenants with eviction when they exceed a limit for the number of police visits. Sargent Shriver data for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, indicates that about one third of nuisance citations are the result of domestic violence.

Most of the ordinances were put in place about 25 years ago, but the problem persists around the country. One woman was assaulted by her boyfriend in Pennsylvania, but she did not call police because she was afraid of being evicted. Her town’s ordinance has a “three strike” rule that does not allow more than three calls to police. A neighbor called the police and took the woman to the hospital for treatment of a large wound in her neck. The landlord’s license was subsequently rescinded, and the woman was told that she would have to move out of her apartment. Similar ordinances exist reportedly in 59 municipalities around the nation.

Domestic violence is a complicated matter. Family law attorneys can sometimes help by ascertaining the validity of claims and shielding legitimate victims of violence with orders of protection. In situations in which the abuser and victim are bound by marriage, the attorney could represent the victim during divorce proceedings that minimize contact between the two parties.

Source: Think Progress, “Domestic Violence Victims Face Choice Between Calling Police Or Staying In Housing“, Bryce Covert, August 19, 2013