Panel OKs bill to help domestic violence victims

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Associated Press

Posted on May 18, 2013 at 12:03 AM

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Domestic violence victims would have a way to break housing leases to escape their abusers under a bill amended and unanimously approved Friday by a Senate committee.

AB284, sponsored by Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, establishes notice requirements and steps victims must take to terminate leases. Among them are presenting the landlord with a police report, restraining order or affidavit from a third party affirming the tenant's account.

It was the broadness of "third party" in the original language of the bill that caused angst for some critics and committee members, who feared a tenant could obtain a false affidavit to get out of a lease obligation.

"We can evict on a TPO and we can evict on a police report, but we cannot, in my opinion, evict on an affidavit," Brenda Lovato of the Institute of Real Estate Management testified during an earlier hearing.

Amendments approved Friday by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy clarify who qualifies as a third-party, including licensed physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers, professional counselors, members of the clergy or anyone employed by an agency or service that deals with domestic violence.

A provision that would have allowed volunteers at domestic abuse organizations to sign an affidavit was stricken.

Another amendment requires that alleged abusers be identified.

Under the bill, notices to landlords must be given within 90 days of when the domestic violence occurred.

It also authorizes landlords to go after abusers civilly for lost rent and any damage that may have been done to the dwelling.

Flores, a domestic violence survivor, said difficult situations are often made worse by financial burdens. Giving victims a way to end a lease early would help them escape dangerous relationships, she said.

Las Vegas police handled about 22,000 domestic violence cases last year.

The bill now goes to the Senate floor.

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