A Nevada law permitting domestic violence survivors to break a lease without incurring financial penalties may soon be extended to cases of harassment, stalking, and sexual assault.
The Nevada Assembly passed a bill Monday, in a 38-0 vote, to permit a survivor of harassment, stalking, or sexual assault to break a lease early by presenting their landlord with a police report or protective order within 90 days of the alleged harassment or attack. The measure prohibits landlords from retaliating or withholding a security deposit.
“The real motivation here is to make sure that victims are not forced to stay in rental properties where they are not or do not feel safe,” the bill’s sponsor, Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas), said last month in a meeting of the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor. Poverty, he added, “should not serve as a barrier to safety, especially when it comes to victims of these types of crimes.”
Nineteen percent of women will have been raped over their lifetime, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime, and 44 percent will experience some other form of sexual violence. Less than 40 percent of such incidents are reported to the police. Fifteen percent of women will experience some form of stalking, and nearly 20 percent of stalking victims said police took no action in their cases.
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Kimberly Mull, policy specialist with the Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, said the organization supports the bill, but noted the legislation, which requires a police report in cases of harassment, stalking, and sexual assault, will only help the small percentage of people who report their assaults to law enforcement.
In comparison, state law permits domestic violence survivors to break a lease by providing landlords with an affidavit, rather than a police report.
“We would like to see sexual assault victims be able to use the same type of affidavit from a sexual assault program, doctor, or counselor,” Mull told Rewire in an email.
It’s unknown how many domestic violence survivors have taken advantage of the law permitting them to break leases, Mull said, because landlords are not required to report the occurrences.
A similar measure in Colorado has cleared the house and state senate.