Domestic Violence and Evictions

Paper copy of eviction notice on brown front door with brass door handle

COVID-19 and evictions

Nationally, one in three renters is at risk of eviction because of financial hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even during the best of times, domestic violence survivors, especially BIPOC women, face economic hardship and are vulnerable to eviction. Women who experience recent or ongoing domestic violence are more likely to face eviction than any other group of women. And Black women face evictions at least three times the rate of other survivors.

COVID-related layoffs, reduced hours, sickness, and the loss of affordable child care have made things worse. Survivors who can no longer afford rent are worried about becoming homeless when Washington’s eviction moratorium ends on December 31 {Update: now extended to March 31, 2021}. Thanks to flexible funds from local governments, foundations, and individuals, LifeWire has provided many survivors with rental assistance, reducing their chance of becoming homeless in the coming months. Even so, too many survivors will face eviction in 2021.

Evictions and abuse

Eviction can expose survivors to further abuse. Those with children are especially likely to consider returning to an abusive partner rather than risk homelessness. That’s why many states, including Washington, have special tenant laws in place to protect survivors of domestic violence. For example, survivors cannot be evicted for experiencing domestic violence. With documentation, they can break their lease, change the locks, and remove their abuser from a shared lease. Not everyone is aware of these protections, which is why LifeWire Housing Stability advocates help survivors navigate the process.

Even with these and other protections in place, survivors may face eviction. “Zero tolerance” violence policies can lead to the eviction of an entire household, not just the abuser. Survivors are often reluctant to share their history of abuse with their landlord. As a result, some have faced eviction for too many police responses or property damage caused by their abuser. Abusers may intentionally also use eviction to punish their partners by stopping rent payments or causing damage.

Effects of evictions

Evictions have a devastating long-term impact on people’s lives. Survivors who are evicted because they cannot pay rent or don’t know their rights don’t have many options for clearing their rental history. Evictions can stay on a person’s record for seven years, haunting survivors for years after. This is why it is so important to have policies that limit evictions and advocate for community investments in affordable housing.