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More States Allow Domestic Violence Victims To Break Leases

New Hampshire state Rep. Ellen Read endured the physical and emotional toll of an abusive relationship at the age of 18 in her native Tennessee. .The abuse, including being held captive in an apartment for days and hit by her abuser’s car, lasted years after she left the relationship, while her abuser stalked her. In 2016, when read won election, her abuser died by suicide after 16 years of stalking. Gov. Chris Sununu is considering a bill by Read to allow victims of domestic and sexual violence — including stalking — to break their rental lease agreements early if they provide a police report or are in the process of obtaining documents such as a protective order, reports Stateline. The pandemic lockdown that began in 2020, coming alongside the nation’s worsening housing crisis, has prompted state lawmakers to help victims of assault who are struggling to move away from their abusers. Domestic violence incidents increased by 8.1% in the months after the imposition of pandemic lockdown orders in 2020, says the Council on Criminal Justice.

More than a dozen states have passed measures in five years improving rental protections for survivors by allowing them to break their leases if they provide evidence of stalking, sexual assault or an abusive domestic relationship. Many laws give victims more leeway in how they can document the abuse. Many cities and states are looking to help survivors with new housing in other ways, such as by obtaining grants to develop transitional housing or offering housing vouchers to victims. “It is deeply traumatizing and harmful to force survivors to continue to live in the same home where the harm occurred,” said Kate Walz of the National Housing Law Project, an advocacy group that trains legal services organizations. “It can retraumatize and compound the harm over years, if not decades.” Several states are discussing the issue this session, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.


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