Determined whether applying a housing complex's "zero tolerance for violence" policy by threatening a person with eviction for having been the victim of domestic violence unlawfully discriminates on the basis of sex.
Our successful settlement of this case -- the first to challenge discrimination against victims of domestic violence as sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act -- is a victory for victims of domestic violence.
Tiffanie Alvera, a former resident of a low-income apartment complex in Portland, Oregon, was served with a 24-hour notice terminating her tenancy immediately after she informed her landlord that her husband had physically assaulted her and that she had obtained an order of protection prohibiting him from entering the apartment complex. The landlord served that notice on Ms. Alvera allegedly pursuant to a policy of evicting any tenant who commits an act of violence or who controls another who commits an act of violence. Although the landlord did not evict tenants who were the victims of violence at the hands of strangers, the landlord made it clear that it would evict innocent victims of domestic violence, including Ms. Alvera.
In October 1999, Ms. Alvera filed a complaint against her landlord and others with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"). In April 2000, the Secretary of HUD issued a charge of discrimination finding that the defendants had discriminated against Ms. Alvera on the basis of sex in violation of the Fair Housing Act. After Ms. Alvera elected to have that charge resolved in court, the United States filed an action alleging that defendants discriminated against Ms. Alvera on the basis of sex, in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Legal Momentum, along with co-counsel Legal Aid Services of Oregon, Oregon Law Center, and the ACLU Women's Rights Project, successfully intervened and filed a complaint on behalf of Ms. Alvera. The intervenor complaint alleged that the defendants engaged in both disparate treatment and disparate impact discrimination against Ms. Alvera in violation of the Fair Housing Act, Oregon fair housing laws, and Oregon common law.
In a consent decree settling the lawsuit, the C.B.M. Group -- the managers of Alvera's apartment complex -- agreed not to “evict, or otherwise discriminate against tenants because they have been victims of violence, including domestic violence” and to revise all employee manuals with respect to current eviction proceedings.