QUESTION Is the PHA allowed to question a client’s VAWA certification? A client has requested a mid-year transfer based on a list of claimed incidents (stalking). The alleged perpetrator is a former significant other of the client. The case manager questions whether any of these incidents actually happened. The case manager suspects that the client may be claiming VAWA protections in order to leverage a transfer to a more desirable dwelling unit. Is the PHA allowed to ask questions or to investigate the current whereabouts of the alleged perpetrator?
ANSWER No, the PHA is not permitted to investigate the client’s claims for protections under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The regulation governing permissible documentation requirements is at 24 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 5.2007(b). The rule states that the PHA may accept an individual’s verbal statement, or may request documentary evidence such as a certification (Form HUD-5382).
While the PHA may request third-party documentation if there is conflicting evidence (for example, when two household members each claim to be the victim), the PHA cannot investigate further. The staff member’s suspicion does not rise to the level of reliable conflicting evidence.Here is an excerpt from Notice PIH 2017-08:
PHAs and owners are prohibited from conducting further fact finding for the purpose of trying to verify the “validity” of an applicant or tenant’s victim status. For example, PHAs and owners are prohibited from conducting interviews with neighbors or employers to determine if the applicant or tenant is “really” a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. Doing so would be in violation of the documentation requirements of the VAWA final rule and may result in a violation of the victim confidentiality requirements of the VAWA final rule.
However, if the PHA or owner already has or regularly receives reliable information that conflicts with the submitted documentation the PHA may require third-party documentation of victim status, based on information outside of the submitted documentation. Examples of reliable information include surveillance footage, police report(s), and other verifiable information. This information must not be collected for the purpose of discrediting claims for VAWA protections, but may be collected for other legitimate reasons; such as addressing safety in the community.
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