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New Kansas City Ordinance Allows Victims of Domestic & Sexual Violence to Break Leases

A new municipal ordinance in Kansas City will allow victims of stalking, domestic and sexual violence to terminate a lease without penalty or retaliation. The measure, sponsored by Councilwoman Jolie Justus and support by several MCADSV member programs in Kansas City, passed unanimously without debate.

Many victims of stalking, domestic and sexual violence might have to stay in unsafe and traumatizing living arrangements because they cannot break a lease. Under the ordinance, which will take effect August 17, a tenant with a protective order from a court or documentation from a medical provider can, with written notice, exit a lease. Unless there is damage to the property, landlords will be required to return the full security deposit.

The federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) includes public housing protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Housing protections originally included in 2005, and expanded in 2013, made public housing protections more consistent. 

The Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced in October 2017 the Sexual Harassment Initiative. The initiative specifically seeks to increase the Department’s efforts to protect individuals from harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, security guards, and other employees of rental property owners. This initiative builds on the federal Fair Housing Act, prohibiting discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status.

A gap exists, however, from the federal to local level, for survivors who do not live in public housing, and/or are not being harassed by landlords or employees of rental properties. In the 2018 legislative session, MCADSV supported House Bill 2166, which would allow lease termination and other housing rights to victims of domestic and sexual violence. The bill, which did not pass and never had a hearing, would allow victims of stalking, domestic and sexual violence to terminate their leases when documentation of that status is provided to a landlord. The documentation could be a police report, protection order or statement from a service provider. The bill also would provide victims with protections from eviction or lease termination.

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