Under HUD’s new guidance, local 'nuisance ordinances' may be subject to a Fair Housing challenge if they negatively impact survivors of domestic violence and other persons in need of emergency services. Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Enforcement of Local Nuisance and Crime-Free Housing Ordinances Against Victims of Domestic Violence, Other Crime Victims, and Others Who Require Police or Emergency Services addresses ordinances that penalize residents for a small number of 911 calls to police, even when a person needs protection from domestic violence or another crime. Nuisance ordinances often require or allow landlords to evict residents in such circumstances. Such policies and ordinances may discourage victims from reporting domestic abuse or other crimes and obtaining the emergency police and medical assistance they need. The ordinances and policies violate the Fair Housing Act if they have an unjustified discriminatory effect or are enacted or enforced to intentionally discriminate because of a protected characteristic.
An example of a complaint brought under the FHA for a nuisance ordinance and eviction policy involves a domestic violence call in Pennsylvania. HUD investigated and resolved a complaint brought by a woman living in Norristown, Pennsylvania, who had been subjected to domestic violence by her ex-boyfriend. Police warned her that if she made one more 911 call, she and her young daughter would be evicted from their home. The Norristown ordinance operated under a "three strike" policy, allowing no more than two calls to 911 for help. Based on the ordinance and possible eviction, the woman was too afraid to call the police when her ex-boyfriend returned to her home and stabbed her. A neighbor called the police. A few days after the woman's release from the hospital, she was served with eviction papers pursuant to the local nuisance ordinance. As a part of the settlement, the city repealed the ordinance.