PA 10-137—sHB 5246

Human Services Committee

Judiciary Committee

Appropriations Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING THE PROTECTION OF, AND SERVICES FOR, VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

SUMMARY: This act makes it easier for tenants who are victims of family violence to move by allowing them to terminate their rental agreements without penalty if they give the landlord at least 30 days' notice. It applies to tenants who enter into or renew rental agreements after December 31, 2010. (PA 10-161 makes several substantive and technical changes to the act, see BACKGROUND).

The act requires the Department of Public Health (DPH) commissioner, by June 30, 2012 and within available appropriations, to develop and issue a televised public service announcement (PSA) to prevent teen dating violence and family violence. The commissioner can apply for public or private grants for this purpose.

The act mandates a schedule for the Department of Social Services (DSS) and DPH to make payments from the marriage license surcharge fund to organizations providing shelter services for domestic violence and rape victims.

The act also makes technical changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2010, except for the marriage license surcharge funds and PSA requirements, which are effective on July 1, 2010.

ABILITY TO TERMINATE RENTAL AGREEMENTS

For rental agreements entered into after December 31, 2010, the act allows tenants who (1) are victims of family violence and (2) reasonably believe they must vacate their dwelling for fear of their or their children's safety to terminate the rental agreement for the dwelling unit they occupy at the time they are being victimized. The tenants are not subject to penalty or liability for the remaining term of the rental agreement. Tenants must provide the landlord at least 30 calendar days' written notice.

The notice must include:

1. a statement that the tenant is a victim of family violence;

2. a statement that he or she intends to terminate the rental agreement and the date of the intended termination; and

3. a copy of a police or court record related to the violence or a signed written statement that the tenant or tenant's child is a victim of family violence.

The written statement in (3) above must be from a victim services organization employee or agent, an employee of the Judicial Department's Office of Victim Services or of the Office of the Victim Advocate, or of a medical or other licensed professional from whom the tenant or tenant's child sought assistance.

The law defines family violence as an incident resulting in physical harm, bodily injury, or assault, or an act of threatened violence that constitutes fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault between family or household members.

The tenant's termination of the rental agreement does not relieve him or her from liability to the landlord for any (1) rent arrearage incurred before he or she terminated the rental agreement or (2) property damage that he or she causes.

The act permits the landlord to bring an action for injunctive relief in Superior Court to prevent the rental agreement's termination if the act's requirements have not been satisfied.

MARRIAGE LICENSE SURCHARGE

The act requires the DSS and DPH commissioners to distribute funds from the nonlapsing account holding the proceeds from the $20 marriage license surcharge to the recipient organizations by October 15 of each year. By law, the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) allocates these funds, in consultation with DSS (which uses them for shelter services for victims of household abuse) and DPH (which uses them for rape crisis services).

The act prohibits OPM and the DSS and DPH commissioners from retaining any of the funds for administrative purposes.

BACKGROUND

Related Act

PA 10-161 makes several changes to the rental agreement termination provisions of this act. Specifically, it:

1. uses the standard of a tenant's fear of his or her imminent harm instead of safety;

2. requires that the notice's signed statement attesting to the family violence be made under oath, and requires the statement to indicate that the tenant has vacated the premises and removed his or her belongings, intends to do so before the rental agreement termination date, or has abandoned the personal property;

3. requires the police or court record to be dated no more than 90 days before the tenant's notice date, and requires the advocate notice to be dated no more than 30 days before the tenant's notice date;

4. removes the ability of medical or other professionals to attest to the violence for purposes of the act;

5. extends the liability for earlier arrearages and damages to other tenants, not just the one seeking to terminate the agreement; and

6. requires the tenants who terminate the agreements, along with any other occupants of the dwelling, to vacate the dwelling by the rental agreement termination date and allows landlords to bring eviction actions when they do not.

PA 10-161 also makes technical changes.

OLR Tracking: RC: JKL: PF: ts