Update on HB 41, the Domestic Violence Bill

Posted by Stephen Marshall on

As some of you might have noticed yesterday, the state House of Representatives passed House Bill 41, which addresses victims of domestic violence in rental housing, by a 90-3 vote. I wrote a blog post on HB 41 f few weeks ago, found here, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the bill from a landlord’s perspective. As those of you on my e-mail list know, I was able to meet with Representative Joni Jenkins, the sponsor of HB 41, and the bill’s advocates in order to discuss the concerns of landlords with the early version of the bill. Representative Jenkins wanted the support of the advocates and landlords before taking the bill forward.

Important Amendments

In that meeting, the advocates were agreeable to two important amendments that addressed the concerns raised in my prior post: (1) to prevent perpetrators of domestic violence from receiving protections under the bill, and (2) to prevent victims who enter a lease with a protective order in place from being able to terminate the lease unless they are able to demonstrate a safety concern that arises after the lease is signed, such as the perpetrator being released from jail.

Getting to "Yes" on the Lease Termination Issue

The remaining obstacle was the time frame for terminating the lease, which is 30 days. Landlords wanted a longer time frame in order to be assured of some additional rental income.  However, the advocates persuasively presented that requiring more than 30 days would, in many cases, effectively eliminate the protections of the bill because the victim would not be able to afford the cost of moving to new housing. The advocates pointed out that, because the bill requires a full protective order, rather than an emergency order, for terminating the lease, the time frame between the act of violence and the entry of the order is lengthened. As a result, the victim, who will need to obtain new housing immediately, will already be paying for her prior housing, plus a deposit and first month’s rent on the new housing, while working to obtain the protective order. Once entered, she will still have to pay another month’s rent on her prior housing under the 30-day notice. If the notice period was extended, many victims simply could not afford the additional payment, and would be more likely to either break the lease and pay nothing to the prior landlord or just stay in the prior housing and risk further abuse. 

When presented with these points, in combination with the amendment that prohibits tenants who enter a lease with a protective order already in place from terminating the lease without demonstrating a new safety concern, the leaders of Kentucky’s largest rental housing association, the Apartment Association of Kentucky, voted to support the amended version of the bill. The bill and its amendments can be found here. Their support was vital to the bill going forward, and it has now done so with great success in the House. It will now go to Senate, where it will likely be amended further.

As I stated in my original post, HB 41 contains many important protections for victims of domestic violence:

  • The ability to break a lease without penalty on 30 days’ and move to a new unit to put distance and/or anonymity between them and their attacker;
  • The ability to be considered as an applicant without regard for the fact that someone made them a victim of violence; 
  • The ability to remain in their rental home despite it being the location of an act of domestic violence.
  • The right to have new locks and/or locking mechanisms.

Because I believe in the importance of these protections, and because the proponents of HB 41 demonstrated a willingness to accommodate the legitimate concerns of those in the rental industry, I’m proud to have supported HB 41. I think it is good legislation that will benefit many in our state, hopefully even saving lives, without unreasonably harming landlords. Having now passed the House, it will go to the Senate for consideration. As always, please contact your state Senator to express your thoughts on this bill.

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