Victims and social workers outlined gut-wrenching details of domestic violence Friday as lawmakers considered creating rights for victims trying to get out of rental leases.
The testimonies came during a nearly three-hour debate on Assembly Bill 284 in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.
“Nevada has not done anything proactive for domestic violence victims in at least 10 years,” Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, told committee members. She has been a victim of domestic violence.
This bill would change that by giving victims a way to get out of rental leases. They would need to contact their landlord, tell him or her the situation and provide either a police report or an affidavit from a qualified third party affirming the tenant’s account. A temporary protection order qualifies as the accompanying document.
“It’s weird we even have to do stuff like this, because you think those obvious signs would cause landlords to behave humanely,” said committee chairman Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department handled about 22,000 cases of domestic violence last year, said Chuck Calloway, director of intergovernmental services for the department. He added that it’s possible that number represents as few as one-third of the total domestic violence cases in the Las Vegas area last year.
“I do believe a victim should be able to get out of a lease without a police report,” Calloway said. “There’s a laundry list of why folks may not want to come to police, but that is the case.”
Bill opponents did not object to the concept, but rather to the clause allowing an affidavit from a third party to substitute for law enforcement involvement.
“We can evict on a TPO and we can evict on a police report, but we cannot, in my opinion, evict on an affidavit,” said Brenda Lovato of the Institute of Real Estate Management.
Flores indicated she would agree to requiring the abuser’s name be included in the affidavit — an idea recommended by Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas. Others were concerned the law could allow people to get falsified affidavits to get out of leases.
“It’s not a perfect world, but you got abused women who need the benefit of the doubt sometimes,” Hutchison said.
Already-difficult domestic violence situations are made worse by the financial burdens of breaking a lease and the lasting effects of having a broken lease in one’s past, Flores told the committee. She added that oftentimes victims stay in situations longer because of those burdens.
Passing the bill would mean the Legislature is “finally” doing something to help victims by relieving one aspect of the situation, Flores said.
“It’s not just that they’re not going to know what to do with housing in the future,” she said. “That’s just a part.”
No action was taken.