Bill offers lease protections for domestic violence victims

By Bruce Schreiner - Associated Press

FRANKFORT (AP) — Victims of domestic violence could break rental agreements without fear of penalty to get away from their abusers under a bill approved Wednesday by a Kentucky House panel.

The measure won strong bipartisan support in clearing the House Judiciary Committee. Advocates for victims of domestic abuse said the bill offers important protections for women escaping violent relationships.

It’s a reflection of a dangerous reality that some victims feel compelled to stay in abusive relationships rather than deal with the financial hardships of leaving, said Mary O’Doherty, assistant director of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“They are the victim of violence, but yet they end up paying for trying to keep themselves safe,” she said.

The bill would help ease those economic hardships by offering lease protections, she said.

To qualify for the lease-breaking protection, a victim would have to go to court and obtain a long-term protective order and then give 30 days’ notice to the landlord.

Twenty-nine states currently provide some types of leasing protections for domestic violence victims, including 20 states that allow early termination of rental agreements, supporters said.

Currently, victims who break rental agreements to move away from their abusers can end up paying rent for the duration of the leases, even if they’re no longer living there, the bill’s supporters said. Also, victims who break their leases can sometimes face problems trying to persuade new landlords to rent to them.

The bill also would protect people from being evicted or refused a lease solely because they were victims of domestic or dating violence. Those protections would apply to victims who obtain emergency protective orders or in criminal cases that include no-contact orders against alleged abusers.

Under another provision, victims could ask their landlords to change the locks to their housing unit. Landlords would be required to do so, but victims would cover the expense.

The bill also would allow landlords to refuse to give a new key to the alleged abuser.

The bill’s lead sponsor is Democratic Rep. Joni Jenkins of Shively.

The legislation is House Bill 41.

By Bruce Schreiner

Associated Press

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