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 risks eviction because of financial hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The numbers are likely higher for survivors of domestic violence. Even before the pandemic, survivors, especially BIPOC women, were especially vulnerable to eviction because most have experienced financial abuse. Women who have experienced 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 September 30, 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. In our state, landlords can not evict survivors for experiencing domestic violence. With documentation, survivors have the right to 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.

Survivors may face eviction even in states with strong legal protections like Washington. Survivors may be reluctant to share their history of abuse with their landlord. As a result, they may receive eviction notices for too many police responses or property damage caused by their abuser. “Zero tolerance” violence policies can lead to the eviction of an entire household, not just the abuser. Abusers may also intentionally 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 with an eviction history because they could not pay rent or did not know their rights have few options for clearing their rental history. Evictions can stay on a person’s record for seven years, haunting survivors for years after. Extending the eviction moratorium will give survivors more time to pay back rent or find alternative living arrangements without having to worry about losing their home or damaging their rental history. Long-term, we help survivors avoid the stress and financial damage of evictions by providing flexible funding to keep them safely housed, educating landlords about domestic violence protections, and investing in more affordable housing.