OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 5246 (as amended by House “A”)*

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

SUMMARY:

This bill makes it easier for tenants who are victims of family violence to leave their dwellings. It allows the tenants to terminate their rental agreements and not be penalized for doing so 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.

The bill 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) for preventing teen dating violence and family violence. The commissioner can apply for public or private grants for this purpose.

The bill mandates a timeframe for the Department of Social Services (DSS) and DPH to make payments from a special fund established with a marriage license surcharge to organizations for shelter services for domestic violence and rape victims.

The bill also makes technical changes.

*House Amendment “A” (1) eliminates the ability of tenants who are family violence victims to defer rent payments if they decide to stay in their dwellings; (2) enables landlords to go to Superior Court for injunctive relief; (3) removes the appropriation for domestic violence shelter staffing; (4) requires one PSA instead of some, requires the PSA to be televised, and allows the DPH commissioner to apply for public or private grants to pay for it; and (5) changes the effective date of the technical changes from July 1, 2010 to October 1, 2010.

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

MARRIAGE LICENSE SURCHARGE

The bill requires the DSS and DPH commissioners to distribute the funds from the nonlapsing account holding 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 bill prohibits OPM and the DSS and DPH commissioners from retaining any of the funds for administrative purposes.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Human Services Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

15

Nay

4

(03/18/2010)

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

38

Nay

0

(04/14/2010)

Appropriations Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

46

Nay

0

(04/19/2010)