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Legislature Passes Housing Rights Bill Proposed by Newton Sen. Creem

Under the bill, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault who live in private housing can receive protections similar to those currently available to residents of public housing.

The Massachusetts Legislature last week unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (D-Newton) that aims to protect housing rights for victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault. 

Under the bill, victims who live in private housing would be able to break a lease with a landlord without financial penalty if his or her safety is in jeopardy, the press release said. 

In addition, the bill forbids landlords to waive these rights in a lease and protects from discrimination against tenants, the press release said. 

These are protections similar to those currently available under federal law to residents of public housing.

“Maintaining and securing safe and affordable housing is often one of the most difficult obstacles facing victims of domestic violence, rape and stalking,” Creem said in the press release. “Many victims find themselves in unlivable situations – either sharing a home with an abuser or living in fear from a stalker – yet hesitate to move, because they can’t afford to break a lease.  Passage of this bill will provide such victims with the ability to leave an unsafe environment, or to take necessary steps to secure their safety while remaining in the home.”

The bill will now head to Gov. Deval Patrick, who is expected to sign it into law, the press release said. 

The full press release from the office of Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem is included below:

LEGISLATURE ADOPTS CREEM BILL TO PROTECT HOUSING RIGHTS FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, STALKING AND SEXUAL ASSAULT

(State House, Boston)  The Massachusetts Legislature this week unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (D-Newton) that would protect victims of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault. 

Under Senator Creem’s bill, victims who live in private housing would receive protections similar to those currently available under federal law to residents of public housing and, in many states, to all tenants:  For years, the Violence Against Women Act has ensured that a victimized tenant is able to break a lease without undue financial penalty if his or her safety is in jeopardy.  In other states, tenants can, alternatively, request a change in the locks on their units. 

Tenants would be required to give landlords written notification of their situation in advance, within a reasonable period.  Landlords could also request independent verification of their status as victims, though this information would have to be kept confidential.  The bill also provides protection from discrimination against tenants, and forbids the waiver of these rights in any lease.

“Maintaining and securing safe and affordable housing is often one of the most difficult obstacles facing victims of domestic violence, rape and stalking,” said Senator Creem. “Many victims find themselves in unlivable situations – either sharing a home with an abuser or living in fear from a stalker – yet hesitate to move, because they can’t afford to break a lease.  Passage of this bill will provide such victims with the ability to leave an unsafe environment, or to take necessary steps to secure their safety while remaining in the home.”

The bill now is now before Governor Deval Patrick, who is expected to sign it into law.


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