Victims of violence could gain more protections in rental housing agreements

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It may become easier for victims of domestic abuse to break a rental housing lease.

The House passed HF859, sponsored by Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-Hopkins), 130-0 on Wednesday. It will go next to the Senate where Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Mpls) is the sponsor.

The bill would expand, from an earlier version, the scope of protection to victims of domestic abuse, criminal sexual conduct and stalking, Simon said. It would also expand the type of documents a victim can use to provide evidence of the violence.

According to the bill, victims of domestic abuse, criminal sexual conduct or stalking who fear for the safety of themselves or their children would be able to, with advance notice, sever a lease without penalty. The bill would also require tenants to agree to not commit acts of domestic violence and prohibit landlords from evicting tenants simply because they are victims.

Tenants wanting to terminate their lease would be responsible to pay rent until the end of the month in which they provide the advance notice. They would need a document such as:

  • a no-contact order;
  • a written and signed statement from a court official verifying the tenant is a victim of domestic abuse; or
  • a signed form by a domestic abuse advocate, sexual assault counselor or other qualified professional stating the tenant is a victim and fears more violence could occur.

To comply with Minnesota law, a tenant would need to provide a forwarding address to the landlord in order to receive a security deposit, but that information would not become public.

Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls) successfully offered an amendment to add her bill (HF2112) that would create a Housing Opportunities Made Equitable pilot program. The program would provide affordable housing for communities of color and American Indians in Minnesota to help address the racial disparity gap in homeownership. Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) noted the program has the support of the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee.

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