On March 30, 2017, the Kentucky General Assembly passed House Bill 309, a bill creating new rights, obligations, and protections for landlords and tenants affected by incidents of domestic violence. Similar bills had been filed in previous years, but had never been brought to a vote. This year, the bill passed both houses of the legislature easily and, on April 11, 2017, was signed into law by Governor Bevin.
The new law, which will be found in KRS Chapter 383, will take effect this week on June 29, 2017. It will drastically change the way many landlords do business, so I wanted to cover the law in some detail. Here are the details:
- While the law will be a part of KRS 383, it is not an addition to the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act. As most of you know, the URLTA does not apply throughout the state, but rather only in 19 jurisdictions. However, HB 309 is not a part of the URLTA and will apply throughout the state.
- This law only affects leases entered into or renewed on or after the effective date of the law, which is June 29, 2017. So, if you entered into a lease on August 1, 2016, and that lease renews on August 1, 2017, the renewed lease would be covered by the new law.
NO ADVERSE ACTIONS
- If a person is protected by a valid
In short, this section creates a new protected class for Fair Housing purposes. Protected tenants may very well have a claim against landlords for housing discrimination if landlords violate this section of the law.
A landlord may still take adverse actions against such tenants for reasons that are not related to their status as a protected tenant or the acts that led to the protective order, but must not hold the protected tenant to a higher standard than other tenants.
- It gives such tenants a defense if a landlord tries to evict them based on an act of domestic violence in which they were a victim
- It gives such tenants the right to change their locks or replace the entire locking mechanism, at their own expense, as long as the: (1) the landlord is notified beforehand and (2) the lock is of equal or better quality.
- The tenant must give the landlord a copy of the key to the new lock upon request.
- It allows landlords to refuse to give a key to the new lock to the perpetrator named in the protective order, even if he/she is on the lease.
- Even if denied access, the named perpetrator remains liable for rent.
ABILITY TO TERMINATE LEASES
- It allows a tenant who obtains a Domestic Violence Order or Interpersonal Protective Order after signing a lease to terminate the lease by giving the landlord:
- It allows a tenant who obtains a Domestic Violence Order or Interpersonal Protective Order before signing a lease to terminate the lease by:
a. Giving the landlord notice that the tenancy will terminate at least 30 days after the landlord’s receipt of the notice,
b. Giving the landlord a copy of the protective order, and
c. Demonstrating a safety concern that arose after signing the lease, such as that the perpetrator got out of prison or learned of the tenant’s new address.
- The tenant remains liable for rent prorated through the date of termination.
Remember, these provisions do not apply to tenants protected only by an EPO, TICO, or PNCO. However, an EPO or TICO often gets converted into a DVO or an ICO. So, a tenant’s status can change over time. You just need to review the order provided by the tenant to determine the applicable rights. Your friendly neighborhood attorney can assist you in this endeavor.
NO NEGATIVE CREDIT/CHARACTER REFERENCES
- The landlord may not give the tenant a negative credit entry or character reference for terminating the lease in accordance with the new law.
PERPETRATOR LIABILITY FOR LANDLORD’S LOSSES
- The perpetrator named in the protective order is liable to the landlord, whether or not he was on the lease, for economic losses sustained by the landlord, including unpaid rent, termination fees, advertising costs, repair costs, or rent concessions that had been given to the victim.
- If the perpetrator is on the lease, the landlord may terminate his tenancy, evict him, and sue him for damages resulting from his violation of the protective order.
- Even if he is on the lease, the landlord may refuse the perpetrator access to the property unless access is specifically permitted by court order.
- Even if a protected tenant is released from the lease or a perpetrator is excluded or evicted, the tenancy of any co-tenants in the unit shall continue unaffected.
IMMUNITY FOR LANDLORDS
- Landlords are immune from liability if they act in good faith in accordance with the new law. In other words, if they exclude a named perpetrator based on what appears to be a valid DVO, the named perpetrator cannot win a lawsuit against the landlord if the DVO turns out to have been forged or otherwise invalid.
- Landlords may not include provisions in leases that penalize tenants for requesting assistance from law enforcement or other emergency personnel.
- Such provisions are not enforceable. If the landlord attempts to enforce such a provision, the tenant may sue the landlord and recover any damages sustained as a result of the landlord’s actions, plus their attorney’s fees and litigation costs, and punitive damages against the landlord up to two months’ rent.
As you can see, the new law is fairly involved, contains several nuances, and requires some changes to the way landlords conduct their business. Click here to read Section One of the law and here for Section Two. If you need help applying the law to your particular situation, please contact your friendly neighborhood attorney.
LANDLORD EDUCATION CONFERENCE
Also, for more information like this, be sure to register for my upcoming Landlord Education Conference on July 12 from 8:30 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. Register today by clicking here. Hope to see you there.