PR Legal Aid urges mortgagers to adopt domestic violence protocol
Puerto Rico Legal Aid is urging mortgage institutions to adopt a protocol on how to act in situations of domestic violence between mortgage debtors, integrating tools and strategies to protect the rights of the victims and survivors.
“There is a very direct link between domestic violence and the risk of losing a home,” said Ariadna Godreau, executive director of Puerto Rico Legal Aid.
The nonprofit has created a document titled “Attention to domestic violence in the management of mortgage processes,” that urges banks and credit unions to learn how to address these situations.
“Excluding a victim from mortgage loan decision-making, depriving them of adequate notices about the loan, or conditioning compliance with mortgage payments or conditions as part of a pattern of aggression constitutes domestic violence,” said Godreau.
“Addressing economic violence, as a form of this type of gender-based violence, is a shared responsibility,” added Godreau-Aubert.
The protocol is a document based on research and the meticulous study of local and federal legislation applicable to mortgage loans, she said.
Recently, at the federal level, two standards relevant to this work were approved: the Federal Housing Administration approved guidelines to address the mitigation of losses when there is domestic violence; and the new passage of the Violence Against Women Act recognizes economic violence as a form of gender-based violence.
Their goal is for financial institutions to review, adopt and implement it, thus declaring their commitment to the eradication of gender-based violence.
Meanwhile, Gloria Meléndez-Mulero, a lawyer for the Derecho a tu Casa program, recalled that Puerto Rico is under a State of Emergency due to Gender Violence.
“Between 2013 and 2021, 130 women died from ‘intimate femicides’ and about 60 other cases are under investigation,” said Meléndez.
“At the same time, we know that comprehensive support for survivors is central and transcends the family, police and courts,” said Meléndez.
“Financial institutions are custodians of loans and products that enable a person to have safe housing. When domestic violence is present, protecting housing is protecting life,” said Meléndez.
Puerto Rico Legal Aid will lead meetings with the teams of the different mortgage institutions to start implementing these tools as soon as possible.
Along with the protocol, the organization reiterated to the institutions to make known to their clientele the directories of free legal services and comprehensive support for survivors of domestic violence.