TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Fred H. Madden and Dana L. Redd, which would allow domestic violence victims to break leases early without penalty, was unanimously approved today by the full Senate.
“Though the scars of domestic abuse often seem to be just physical, victims are often plagued by the invisible scars of depression and helplessness that can prevent them from leaving their abusers and getting the help they need,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester. “For these victims, ‘getting out’ is the first step in the right direction towards healing. This legislation would allow them to break their leases without penalty, leave their life-threatening situations and abusers, and possibly save their own lives.”
“When someone is being abused, it’s never too early to leave,” said Senator Redd, D-Camden and Gloucester. “For domestic violence victims, the chance to leave and secure safe housing can seem out of reach. This bill would provide them with a way to escape, without the fear of being denied secure, safe housing because they have a broken lease on their credit record.”
Under the Senators’ bill, S-1894, any joint lease would expire 30 days after a landlord receives written notice of a domestic violence victim’s need to move. Under the bill, “written notice” includes a restraining order or police report.
Any co-tenants would be permitted to make a new lease with the landlord.
The measure also provides a procedure for victims to follow to recover a security deposit, without having to return to the property or provide a forwarding address. The security deposit would have to be returned within 15 days of the termination of the lease. Victims and landlords may choose to have the municipal clerk return the deposit. Landlords and municipal clerks would be prohibited from disclosing a victim’s personal information.
This measure now heads to Governor Corzine’s desk, where his signature would make it State law.