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Consumer alert: NYS DCP reminds domestic violence survivors & advocates of consumer protections available in New York


Tue, Oct 10th 2023 01:10 pm

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

By the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection

For this week’s “Tuesday’s Tips,” the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection and address confidentiality program is reminding domestic violence survivors, victims and advocates of consumer protections available in the New York marketplace.

This reminder comes during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is an opportunity to highlight this important issue and raise awareness while continuing to provide support to victims and survivors.

“There’s no place for domestic and gender-based violence in New York state, but unfortunately it’s a reality that many individuals still face,” Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said. “At the Department of State, we’re doing our part to help survivors with our address confidentiality program, which is a cost-free service that shields the addresses of individuals who fear for their safety. We’re also spreading the word about the many other consumer protections available to survivors in New York state, because knowing what help is out there can equip survivors with the tools they need to get out of an abusive and dangerous relationship.”

The following rights and protections are available to New York domestic violence victims and survivors:

•Address confidentiality: If you are a New York state resident and a victim of domestic violence, victim of stalking, victim of sexual offense, victim of human trafficking, victim of kidnapping or are a reproductive health care services provider, employee, volunteer, patient or immediate family member of reproductive health care services provider who has moved or are planning to move for safety reasons, the Department of State address confidentiality program assists with shielding an address from an abuser at no cost to the victim. Domestic violence victims can also provide alternate address information for their telephone services directly through their service provider to prevent their abusers from finding out their actual address.

•Utility, wireless, telecommunication, cable and satellite service contract opt out: Domestic violence victims can request an opt-out of their service contract, in writing, without fee, penalty or charge if they are a victim of domestic violence and provide an attestation in writing of their eligibility as a victim of domestic violence.

•Identity theft: Identity theft can be a challenge for domestic violence victims, but regularly examining credit reports, setting up fraud alerts and checking bank records are three tools to assist victims in preventing identity theft. Learn more here.

•Insurance: New York state insurance law prohibits any insurance policy providers from discriminating against someone because they are a domestic violence victim.

•Alternative contact information: Requires health insurers to provide an insurer or subscriber who is a victim of domestic violence, upon request of such insurer or subscriber, with the option to designate alternative contact information for the purpose of receiving specific claim information or for specific billing purposes.

•Smart technology: New York state law allows domestic violence orders of protection to include prohibitions against remotely controlling any domestic violence victim’s connected devices.

•Workplace protections: Victims of domestic violence, family offenses or human trafficking cannot be discriminated against for using leave accruals for sick time, family sick time or safe time related to such matters. Learn more here.

•Residential lease protections:

√ Lease termination: A domestic violence victim may terminate a residential lease to support their safety, without liability, if they provide the landlord with a written 30-day notice. Then, within 25 days of the written notice, the domestic violence victim must provide documentation to the landlord affirming their domestic violence status. Qualifying documentation includes one or more of the following: an order of protection; a law enforcement record or report documenting an act of domestic violence; a health care provider record of treatment related to domestic violence; or a written verification from a qualified third party to whom the tenant reported the domestic violence.

√ Discrimination prohibited: Residential landlords cannot refuse to rent to or discriminate against a person or their accompanied child(ren) who are victims of either a criminal act or family offense of domestic violence. Domestic violence victims who are discriminated against may initiate a civil claim in court and may be awarded up to $2,000 and attorney’s fees.

√ Evictions prohibited: Residential landlords cannot evict a tenant based on their domestic violence victim status. If a proceeding for eviction begins, a tenant may defend the proceeding by asserting their status as a domestic violence victim as the basis for the eviction. This protection does not apply to owner-occupied housing with two or fewer units. This protection also does not prohibit an eviction proceeding on grounds other than a tenant’s status as a victim of domestic violence.

•Membership campground contracts: Although a cancellation period for a membership campground may have passed, domestic violence victims can cancel their contract by submitting to the membership campground operator any one of these four domestic violence status affirming documents: a valid domestic violence incident report; police report; a valid order of protection; or a signed affidavit from a licensed medical or mental health care provider, employee of a court acting within the scope of his or her employment, social worker, a rape crisis counselor or domestic violence advocate.

New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Executive Director Kelli Owens said, “New York state and the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence are dedicated to being survivor-centered, trauma-informed and culturally responsive by supporting those affected by gender-based violence. Financial stability is critical to achieving survivor safety.”

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Acting Commissioner Barbara C. Guinn said, “These services are vital to help those who have experienced domestic violence stay safe and avoid negative economic consequences as they work to stabilize and rebuild their lives. The address confidentiality program is particularly helpful for the safety of survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.”

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection serves to educate, assist and empower the state’s consumers. Consumers can file a complaint with the Division of Consumer Protection at https://dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection. For more consumer protection information, call the DCP helpline at 800-697-1220 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, or follow DCP on social media on Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.

New York’s address confidentiality program allows victims of domestic violence, stalking, sexual offenses, human trafficking and kidnapping; and reproductive health care services providers, employees, volunteers, patients or immediate family members of reproductive health care services providers to shield their address. Other members of the same household (children, partners, parents or siblings) are also eligible to participate.

This free program is one tool that a victim may use in their overall safety plan. Once registered, participants are assigned a substitute address that they may use instead of their actual address. All state and local agencies are required to accept the substitute address. Any mail sent to a participant at the substitute address is processed by ACP staff and forwarded daily to the confidential location of the participant. For more, visit the ACP webpage at https://dos.ny.gov/address-confidentiality.

The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, created in 1992, is the country’s only executive-level state agency dedicated to the issue of domestic violence. It replaced the former Governor’s Commission on Domestic Violence established in 1983.

The state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence’s work is completed under four main bureaus: sexual assault prevention, policy and programming; domestic violence prevention, policy and programming; external affairs, and law and public safety.

To find more protections for New Yorkers suffering from domestic violence, visit the OPDV website at https://opdv.ny.gov/.

The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance is responsible for supervising programs that provide economic and other assistance and support to eligible families and individuals. This includes helping vulnerable New Yorkers meet their essential needs and advance economically by providing opportunities for stable employment, housing and nutrition. For more information, visit https://otda.ny.gov/.

About the New York State Division of Consumer Protection

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The consumer assistance helpline (1-800-697-1220) is available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, excluding state holidays. Consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection. For other consumer protection tips and consumer alerts, consumers can follow the New York Department of State on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and check in every Tuesday for more practical tips that educate and empower consumers on a variety of topics. Sign up to receive consumer alerts directly to an email or phone here.

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