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 approved today by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
“All too often, domestic violence victims feel a sense of helplessness that prevents them from leaving their abusers, and getting the help they so desperately need,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester. “What these victims either don’t realize, or fail to accept is the fact that ‘getting out’ is the first step in the right direction towards healing. By allowing them to break their leases without penalty, victims would have the opportunity to escape from these life-threatening situations, and possibly save their own lives.”
“When it comes to domestic violence, it is never too early for a victim to leave,” said Senator Redd, D-Camden and Gloucester, who serves as Vice Chair of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs panel. “Often, these victims have been beaten down, physically and emotionally, and the chance to secure their own housing seems out of reach. This legislation would give victims a way to escape, without the fear of not being able to 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 the full Senate for approval.