For survivors of domestic violence, housing security and access to police assistance can be essential to living free from abuse. However, towns and cities across the country are increasingly passing local laws that punish landlords and tenants when crimes occur on a property, endangering victims’ housing and interfering with their ability to report crimes.
Nuisance ordinances – also called disorderly house ordinances or crime free ordinances – label a property as a nuisance when it is the site of a certain number of calls for police or alleged nuisance conduct (a category that can include assault, harassment, stalking, disorderly conduct, and many other kinds of behavior). Alarmingly, these laws usually apply regardless of whether a resident was a victim of the nuisance activity. Upon citation, property owners typically are instructed to “abate the nuisance” or face steep penalties. Many landlords respond by evicting the tenant (who can be the victim of the crime), refusing to renew their lease, or instructing tenants not to call 911.