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Housing: Domestic Or Sexual Violence

I am not safe in my home because of domestic or sexual violence. What is the Safe Homes Act?

The Safe Homes Act is a state law that gives you or any of your household members who are a victim of domestic or sexual violence (including dating violence, stalking, child abuse, and elder abuse) the right to:

  • End your lease (written or oral) early and leave the home. Tenants who properly use the law, including giving your landlord written notice within three days of moving out of the unit, will not be responsible for rent due after they leave the home.
  • Change the locks to keep the abuser out of the home. If you have a written lease and the perpetrator is not on the lease, you and all adult tenants on the lease write a letter requesting the lock change due to the threat of violence. The letter must be accompanied by some proof of the violence/threat of violence. If the perpetrators is a tenant or there is an oral lease, you and all adults in the home, except the perpetrator, must write a letter to the landlord requesting the lock change due to the threat of violence. The letter must be accompanied by a two-year court order giving the victim tenant exclusive possession of the home. The tenant has to cover the cost of the lock change.

The law protects anyone who lives in private or subsidized housing (including Section 8 housing choice vouchers), but the law does not include public housing. If you use the Safe Homes Act, your landlord cannot share that information with your next landlord.

Learn more about the Safe Homes Act.

I am about to be or have already been evicted from my home because of domestic or sexual violence. What are my rights?

The Forcible Entry and Detainer Act, among other laws, protects you from being evicted from your home due to incidents of, threats of, or criminal activity directly related to domestic or sexual violence, or dating violence or stalking, or solely due to your or anyone in your household’s status as a survivor of these crimes.

Call legal services immediately if you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual violence and are being threatened with an eviction. Tell the intake worker that you have been or may be evicted, that you have experienced domestic or sexual violence, and that you want to learn about the Forcible Entry and Detainer Act.

Cook County:

Coordinated Advice and Referrals Program for Legal Services (CARPLS) Hotline:

Outside Cook County:

Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation:

Prairie State Legal Services: see the website to find the correct contact number for your location.

I am a survivor of domestic and/or sexual violence. What protections do I have under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)?

If you otherwise qualify for housing assistance, property owners cannot use your history of or current situation of actual or threatened domestic or sexual violence to refuse you housing or to evict you from housing. If you share a lease or voucher with your abuser, your abuser may be evicted or removed from the voucher without affecting your housing. This applies for all public housing, Project-Based Section 8, Housing Choice Vouchers, Section 202, Section 811, Section 236, and Section 221(d)(3) BMIR Projects, properties with HOME, HOPWA, or McKinney-Vento Funding, and Rural Development Multifamily and LIHTC Housing.

More Information and Resources

The Illinois Domestic Violence Help Line is toll-free, confidential, 24 hours, and multilingual. To get help, call 1-877-863-6338 (TTY 1-877-863-6339).

You can find a directory of additional domestic violence and sexual assault services at the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Illinois Coalition of Sexual Assault. For information about temporary emergency child care for families in crisis, see our section on Maryville Crisis Nursery.

You may also contact Kate Walz, director of Housing Justice at the Shriver Center, 312-368-2679, for more information and assistance on VAWA.

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