Painter Offers Lease-Breaker Change In Abuse Cases

HARRISBURG PA – An amendment to the state Landlord and Tenant Act that would protect tenants who need to terminate a lease because they are fleeing from domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking was offered this week by local state Rep. Mark Painter and passed Tuesday (May 6, 2014) by the House of Representatives.

20140509-ApartmentLease-GoogleImagesThe legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration. It will not become part of the law until also passed by the Senate and signed by the governor.

“We must do everything possible to help victims of domestic violence following the crisis they experience. By making these changes in state law, we can prevent them from being victimized a second time,” said Painter, who represents Lower Pottsgrove and Limerick townships, and Pottstown and Royersford boroughs.

His amendment would provide protections for a tenant who needs to terminate a lease, or to be released from a lease – in the case of multiple tenants – before the end of the lease term because the tenant, or an immediate family member or other person with whom the tenant is living has been the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

The tenant would be required to give the landlord at least 30 days’ notice of the tenant’s intent to terminate or be released from the lease. The tenant also must provide the landlord with evidence of the tenant’s victimization.

Also in those cases, Painter’s amendment would require the landlord to change the locks at the tenant’s expense within three days following the tenant’s request. The tenant could change the locks, at the landlord’s expense, if the landlord does not act within the required time frame.

A landlord would be prohibited from increasing the amount of the rent, making any other changes to the lease or from evicting a tenant as a result of the tenant being the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault.

A landlord would be allowed to terminate a perpetrator’s interest in a lease if the perpetrator has committed an act of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Also, the rights of a perpetrator who is a party to a lease for a residential dwelling unit would terminate upon the issuance of an order to vacate the unit addressed to the perpetrator.

Termination of a lease by either a tenant or by the issuance of an order to vacate would not affect the rights and obligations under the lease of any remaining tenants.

The landlord would be allowed to terminate a lease if, after receiving notice from the landlord of a perpetrator’s behavior relating to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking against the tenant, the tenant invites the perpetrator onto the premises or allows the perpetrator to occupy the dwelling unit and the perpetrator damages the premises, harms another person or disturbs the use of the premises by other tenants.

The provisions would apply to leases entered into or extended after the law is enacted.