Domestic violence, renting and the law.

AuthorJohnson, Rochelle

Homelessness is often a result of domestic violence (DV). When someone is fleeing violence at home, he or she needs somewhere to live and often has few or limited resources. There are additional difficulties if the person is a renter and either wants to remain living in the property, or is trying to find somewhere new to rent. Renting law impacts the options that the person has, and different provinces have taken different legislative steps to help with this problem.

The relationship between domestic violence, residential tenancy law, and homelessness is interconnected. Several studies have identified a link between family violence and homelessness (including An Environmental Scan of Strategies to Safely House Abused Women and Family Violence and Homelessness: A Review of the Literature). The Edmonton based A Case Study: Retrospective Analysis of Homeless Women in a Canadian City focused on two inner-city women's shelters and found that "[h]aving abusive relationships and housing problems (62.3%) were the main reasons why women had come to the shelter" (p. 13). Included in the housing problems were issues associated with renting, including eviction.

There is a stigma attached to being a victim of domestic violence in the context of being seen as a desirable tenant in a residential tenancy situation.

Recent research by the Edmonton Social Planning Council and the Edmonton Coalition on Housing confirms that a bad rental history and lack of landlord references means that DV victims will have a difficult time finding stable housing. The Understanding Tenancy Failures and Successes final report also identified that discrimination occurs or the basis of source of income: "When landlords found out tenants were on government income support (e.g. AISH [Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped], Alberta Works), there was often greater reluctance to rent them a unit" (p. 20). The Alberta government provides income support to women fleeing domestic violence situations, and based on the study, this funding could also be a basis for discrimination against the domestic violence victim. The same study identified the need for education on rental housing rights and responsibilities for those who were vulnerably housed and/or homeless and for the staff (the service providers or intermediaries) who provide the support services.

There is a stigma attached to being a victim of domestic violence in the context of being seen as a desirable tenant in a...

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