- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Victims of domestic violence could break a lease to escape an abuser and would also have other housing protections, under a bill moving closer to final legislative passage.

The proposal by Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, was approved by a House civil law committee Monday on an 8-5 vote. The measure, which was previously approved by the Senate, will now be considered by the full House.

In addition to allowing victims to break a lease, the proposal would give landlords the power to immediately evict those who are deemed abusers by the courts or a state welfare agency. In limited situations, landlords would also be barred from evicting abuse victims.

Advocates say the bill is needed because there aren’t enough protections for women who endure abuse. But some Republicans on the committee said the proposal would take away landlord authority and could lead to unintended legal consequences.

The bill approved by the committee Monday is vastly different from the measure Broome initially proposed, which would have granted abuse victims wide-ranging leeway with landlords, prohibiting evictions for repeat police visits, while allowing victims to seek monetary damages in court.

It was amended after landlord groups and a number of lawmakers objected to the wide-ranging protections.

As it is now written, the proposal would allow landlords to evict victims if their abusers repeatedly returned or disturbed the peace - even if they show up uninvited. The law would also only apply to apartment buildings or group dwellings with more than four units.

Additionally, the measure would no longer allow victims to sue landlords for damages. And in order to get out of a lease, an act of domestic violence must occur on the leased property.

Those changes still did not go far enough for Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, a commercial developer.

“I still see a lot of problems with this,” Garofalo said. “It’s kinda unfair to give it to judges and landlords and say ‘OK, now you have to live with this.’”

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Online:

Senate Bill 174 can be found at www.legis.la.gov

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