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Wisconsin Law Allows Victims of Domestic Violence Out of Rent Agreements

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed a law last week that allows victims of domestic violence to terminate rental agreements without penalty. The Safe Housing Act allows victims to break their leases if they are in imminent danger. If landlords punish the victims for terminating their leases, the lease can be voided. The law was passed unanimously by the Wisconsin State Senate and the Wisconsin Assembly.

Kathryn Chapman, director of the Golden House shelter in Green Bay, Wisconsin, told the Associated Press, “If you’re required to stay with an abuser because of a lease you can feel trapped in your residence.” Kiani was still stoned to death on July 5, 2007. Ebrahimi’s death was stayed due to the public outcry, and last week the Iranian judiciary amnesty commission released her from prison.

The law’s opponents claim that it burdens landlords and does not protect them from people who would abuse the law. The law, however, requires victims of domestic violence to provide documentation, such as a restraining order against their abuser, in order to break their leases.

According to Legal Momentum, the states of Colorado, Delaware, North Carolina, Washington, Texas, Oregon, and Illinois have similar laws allowing victims of domestic violence to terminate leases early (see PDF).

Sources:

Associated Press 03/29/08; Green Bay Press Gazette 03/29/08; Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach's website; Legal Momentum 2006