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FAQ on Senate Bill 233

Posted on 22. May, 2014 by

Q&A on SB233

Q: Does SB 233 create a liability for landlords that evict abusers?

A: No.

Q: What if the abuser is found to be innocent?

A: Under SB 233, a perpetrator of domestic violence may lawfully be evicted from housing and barred from returning regardless of whether he has been charged with or convicted of crime relating to the abuse. SB233 simply provides that a victim of crime is not also evicted because of a perpetrator’s actions. Similarly, landlords can legally evict tenants who are charged but not yet convicted of drug crimes.

Q: How would a written lease agreement discourage a victim of domestic violence from contacting emergency assistance?

A: Some leases in Louisiana include policies that stipulate that involvement in any aspect of domestic violence is grounds for eviction. Therefore, victims of domestic violence that have signed such leases may choose not to call for emergency assistance in the event of abuse because they fear being evicted as a result.

Q: Why not require victims to get a protective order?

A: Protective orders are a multi-step process requiring both a judge and hearing: they take longer than an eviction. Further, statistics demonstrate that 78% of victims that petition for protective orders in Louisiana are denied. District courts and legal advocates report that this is due factors such as lack of affordable legal representation for victims, courts that are unable to find or serve defendants, and that hearings require engaging with the batterer in ways that are both intimidating and dangerous.

Q: Does SB 233 create clear guidance for apartment managers and landlords?

A: Yes, SB 233 creates guidance on two activities: 1) Written lease agreements that penalize domestic violence victims for either violence against them or for contacting emergency assistance; and 2) Evicting a victim because she was a victim of domestic abuse.

Q: What if two roommates get in an argument? Is that a domestic dispute where one roommate is then a victim?

A: No, SB 233 establishes that an individual is a victim of a domestic dispute only if she satisfies the standard established by the existing Criminal Code of Louisiana, which defines domestic abuse.

Q: What if a tenant is getting evicted, and then claims she is a victim of abuse?

A: Nothing in SB 233 waives or limits a tenant’s obligations. Proposed legislation only extends to a tenant who is facing eviction because of abuse against her. Therefore, if a tenant is being evicted for nonpayment of rent, claiming she is a victim of abuse will not prevent the eviction from proceeding.

Q: What if an applicant fails a criminal background check and the applicant says it’s due to violence against them?

A: As amended, SB 233 does not cover prospective tenants. In it’s current posture, the bill only contemplates two activities: rental agreements and evictions.

Q: What if an applicant is denied an apartment and claims special protections because they are a victim of domestic violence?

A: As amended, SB 233 does not cover prospective tenants. In it’s current posture, the bill only contemplates two activities: rental agreements and evictions.

Q: Tenants are already free to call the police. Is this law necessary?

A: Proposed legislation addresses a real problem for victims. Victims are and have been evicted because of violence against them, and many current lease agreements do discourage or prohibit calls for emergency assistance.

Q: What if the batterer is the one on the lease?

A: Under SB 233, the perpetrator would be evicted, but the victim would have a right to apply for the apartment on her own or assume the lease. If she met all of the income requirements, terms, and conditions, then a new lease would be executed in her name.

Q: Doesn’t SB 233 put other tenants at risk?

A: No. SB 233 creates a clear process for evicting perpetrators of abuse, so that housing providers can create a safe environment for all of their tenants. Housing providers are always able to notify former tenants that returning to the property is trespassing, whether there is an issue of abuse or not.

Q: How is an apartment manager or landlord supposed to know if it’s domestic violence or not? Doesn’t that require an invasion of tenant privacy?

A: No, it doesn’t require an invasion of tenant privacy. SB 233 only addresses two activities: 1) Lease agreements that are written in such a way that penalizes domestic violence victims for either violence against them or for contacting emergency assistance. Housing providers don’t need to know anything about prospective tenants in order to draft legally compliant leases; and 2) Evicting a tenant simply because she was a victim of domestic abuse. In this instance, SB233 provides that a housing provider can ask for evidence of the abuse from a court, law enforcement, or a third-party service provider. Thus, there is no reason that a landlord or apartment manager should be making a determination of whether someone is a victim or not.

Q: What is a third-party service provider?

A: A third-party service provider is an agency that provides social services for victims of domestic abuse. Examples include battered women’s shelters, social workers from faith-based or community organizations, or other agencies that provide emergency housing, counseling, or direct services to battered women.

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