Real Estate

Apartment was wrong to kick out victims of domestic violence

A federal housing agency said a Mississippi apartment complex discriminated against a woman when it kicked her out after she called police to report she was a victim of domestic violence.

Escatawpa Village Apartments in Moss Point, Miss., evicted two different victims of domestic violence based on a clause in their leases that requires anyone “who commits a drug violation or domestic violence to vacate the leased unit permanently,” according to documents released by HUD.

(Photo courtesy Google Maps)

The first woman left the complex, but the second woman filed a complaint with HUD when she was evicted. In the second woman’s incident, the woman was badly beaten by her boyfriend (who did not live on the property) and escaped with the help of a neighbor, according to HUD.

Bruised and bloodied, the woman called police who arrested her boyfriend. The boyfriend pleaded guilty to the assault. The next day, the apartment complex left an eviction notice on the victim’s door giving her six days to leave the apartment.

It said: 

“On 8/4/09 the police was [sic] called on a dometic [sic] incident in your unit whereas your boyfriend and were [sic] fighting and he was taken to jail for battery.” 

On Feb. 2, HUD ruled that the policy was discriminatory. It awarded damages to the complainant to cover “economic losses, including but not limited to, all out-of-pocket expenses, emotional and physical distress, embarrassment, humiliation, substantial inconvenience, loss of a housing opportunity, and any and all other damages caused by respondents’ discriminatory conduct.”

The policy seems discriminatory on its face. It could also pressure women to keep instances of domestic violence secret, for fear they will be kicked out of their homes. I had hoped to get the apartment complex’s side of the dispute, but unfortunately, they clearly didn’t feel like talking.

A woman who identified herself as the manager of the complex who did not give her name hung up on me when I called to ask about the ruling. I called back, and the call went to voicemail. I left a message, but don’t expect to be called back.

When I called the management company, no one was available to speak to me, nor did the person answering the phone have any knowledge of the ruling. I left a message, but at the time this blog was posted, my call hadn’t been returned.

At any rate, HUD’s ruling applies to all apartments, not just Escatawpa Village Apartments. Its contention that the eviction was gender biased is based on statistics that overwhelmingly indicate that women are primarily the victims in domestic disputes.

Its data came from the U.S. Department of Justice, and said that “between 1998 and 2002, 84% of spouse abuse victims were females, and 86% of victims of dating-partner abuse were female. Females were 83% of spouse murder victims and 75% of dating-partner murder victims.” 

The evidence is pretty compelling. Additionally, I’m not quite sure how the lease could possibly apply to the victims in either case, given that the lease specifies that you must “commit” the crime — not be a victim of it.

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