LINCOLN–Landlords would be required to release victims of domestic violence from residential leases under a bill proposed by Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz.
Legislative Bill 992 would also allow landlords to evict perpetrators of domestic violence while still holding a perpetrator responsible for all costs associated with their rental agreement.
The bill defines domestic violence as domestic assault, sexual assault, labor or sex trafficking and intentional abuse or exploitation of a vulnerable adult or senior adult.
“These situations are often dangerous and serious,” Bolz said at the Feb. 15 Judiciary Committee hearing. “A majority of homicides actually occur when a survivor is trying to leave a perpetrator.”
Under LB 992, victims of domestic violence would be able to break their leases or have their abuser evicted if they have the support or recommendation of a qualified third party. A third party is defined as law enforcement officers, psychologists, physicians, nurses, staff from the Department of Health and Human Services and workers from organizations that support victims of domestic violence. Victims would also need to file a report to present to the landlord stating the specifics of the abuse that occurred on property.
A victim could also terminate a lease or have their abuser evicted if the victim seeks a restraining or protective order. However, in these cases landlords could require the victim to sign an agreement stating remaining tenants will not allow the perpetrator onto the premises, as well as to report any presence of the perpetrator to both law enforcement and the landlord. If the remaining tenants violated the agreement, it could be grounds for a landlord to terminate their lease.
Robert Sanford, legal director for the Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, spoke in support of the bill. Sanford said the National Alliance to End Homelessness found that 16 percent of the overall homeless population in the United States has experienced some form of domestic violence.
“Housing needs and domestic violence are closely linked,” Sanford said.
Gene Eckel, who spoke on behalf of the Nebraska Association of Commercial Property Owners, said that while he supports helping victims of domestic violence he has concerns that some people may take advantage of the the ability to break their lease. He also had concerns that a third party is basing its judgment on the testimony of the victim alone and not considering other parties involved, which could make it easier for people to falsely accuse someone.
But Eckel said he would like to work with Bolz on the bill and hopes to see an amended version next legislative session.
“I don’t think that we would want to create legislation around the idea of false allegations,” Bolz said in response to Eckel’s concerns.
The committee took no immediate action on the bill.