The city of Berlin, New Hampshire, has agreed to fix its nuisance, or “three-strikes” rental law which forces landlords to evict tenants if police are called to a property. The law made no exceptions for victims.
The ordinance requires landlords to evict tenants cited three or more times for “disorderly action,” which can encompass domestic violence.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to evict an individual because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status. The Act applies if a rental policy burdens one class of renters more than others. In this case, HUD alleged that women would be more severely impacted by the eviction law because they are more often the victims in domestic violence incidents.
Landlords who fail to evict tenants under the controversial measure risk fines and revocation of their rental licenses.
The city of Norristown, Pennsylvania was forced to repeal a similar nuisance ordinance last year after the ACLU brought legal action. In that case, police informed a domestic violence victim that one more call to police could trigger an eviction. As a result, the woman chose to forgo police protection and nearly died.
Despite the legal controversies, a number of cities and towns across the country have enacted some form of nuisance law that holds landlords accountable for rowdy tenants. Yet, because eviction laws may not be in sync with the language of the nuisance ordinance, a landlord may not have legal grounds to evict. If that’s the case, the best course of action is to work with police and city officials to avoid penalties, such as daily fines.
Berlin officials have agreed to add language stating that the “ordinance is not intended to be used against victims of reported incidents of domestic violence.” Officials also agreed to clarify the term “disorderly action” to exclude the actions of victims of reported domestic violence incidents.
The city agreed to take steps to promote awareness of domestic violence issues.
In addition to violating the Fair Housing Act, three-strikes laws and similar rental policies may run counter to the Violence Against Women Act.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.