Bill helps violence victims escape dangerous housing

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed a bill by San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu allowing domestic violence victims to break a lease in order to move to safer housing.

Current state laws allowing domestic violence victims to terminate a residential lease were set to expire at the end of this year. Assembly Bill 418 makes those laws permanent and makes it easier to terminate a lease without filing a police report or obtaining a restraining order, according to Chiu.

While current law requires victims to provide written notice to the landlord of a restraining order or police report, the new law allows victims the option of obtaining a written statement from a qualified advocate or counselor without going through the judicial system or police.

Many of those dealing with domestic violence find it difficult to go to police or the courts due to cultural and language barriers and complex bureaucratic processes, or out of fear of increased violence, according to Chiu:

“Residential leases should not impede a survivor’s ability to flee a dangerous or potentially fatal situation.”

In addition, the bill reduces the obligation for victims to pay the remaining rent from 30 days to 14 days following termination, a change intended to make it easier to afford new housing.

Anya Lawler, a legislative advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said:

“By reducing the rent obligation to 14 days, this bill frees up funds that could be the difference between a domestic violence survivor securing safe housing and experiencing homelessness.”

Marcia Rosen, executive director of the National Housing Law Project, applauded the new law in a statement:

“This law will help survivors flee to safety and establish new homes.”