Brooklyn Landlord v. R. F.

If you are being watched, leave now!

January 2007
  • Violence Against Women and Girls
  • Litigation Case Document
Legal Momentum served as co-counsel for the respondent along with South Brooklyn Legal Services.

Background of the Case

Legal Momentum prevented a Brooklyn woman from being evicted from her home in one of the first cases to use new housing protections in the Violence Against Women Act to help domestic violence victims. Ms. F's case is a perfect example of a situation that Congress sought to address when it enacted new housing protections for victims of domestic violence in the 2005 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA 2005). The law now provides that victims cannot be evicted simply because of acts of domestic violence, and they cannot be evicted based on the criminal acts of their abusers related to domestic violence. Legal Momentum was closely involved in getting these protections passed, and Ms. F's case is one of the first in the country to assert these new protections on behalf of a victim.

Summary of the Case

Our client, Ms. R.F., has lived in the same apartment in a subsidized (Section 8) housing complex in Brooklyn since 1996 with her three young children. Ms. F. had a relationship with another tenant for four years, and was subject to physical and verbal abuse. Unfortunately, even after the relationship ended in 2000, the ex-boyfriend continued to harass, stalk and physically assault Ms. F for several years.

In late April 2006, the ex-boyfriend came to Ms. F.'s apartment in the middle of the night, banging on the door and screaming at her. The building security guard called by Ms. F. was unable to reason with her abuser, who left before the police arrived. One week later, the abuser came back to the building, confronted the same security guard, and shot at him. When the police arrived, the abuser told the police that he lived with Ms. F and that he was married to her, none of which was or ever had been true. Nevertheless, Ms. F's landlord started an eviction proceeding against her, claiming that the criminal actions of her "husband" or "guest" violated her lease and she had to bear the consequences.

Decision

After initial settlement talks failed, together with our co-counsel South Brooklyn Legal Services we filed a motion for summary judgment which asserted the defenses to eviction enacted as part of VAWA 2005, which is available for download here. We also asserted counterclaims alleging that the landlord was evicting our client because she was a victim of domestic violence and stalking, and was therefore engaging in unlawful sex discrimination.

The case was finally resolved in May 2007. The landlord dismissed the eviction proceeding.