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Friday July 20th, 2018 12:11PM

Local advocates for domestic abuse victims hopeful about new law

By B.J. Williams News Director

While most of the attention has been on a new distracted driving law that became effective July 1, other laws also went active on that date, including one that local advocates hope will bring financial relief to victims of domestic violence.

House Bill 834 is designed to help abuse victims whose names are on home rental agreements break the agreements without financial penalty.  

Jessica Butler, the Executive Director of Gateway Domestic Violence Center in Hall County, said the new law should make the decision to get out of an abusive situation easier for a victim.

"In the past, we've had people who were unable to terminate a lease - or even left a home where they were being abused - and then ended up with something really difficult on their credit report afterwards that made it harder for them to find a new, safe house because they had ended a lease before the term was up," Butler said. 

Blythe Hammons, Advocacy Supervisor at Gateway, said it has been her experience that abuse victims might delay leaving a dangerous living situation because they are worried about financial repercussions.

"There have been multiple times that I have offered shelter for a family in need and the main thing that the survivor is thinking about is not being able to get out of that lease," Hammons said. "I think this [HB 834] will help people make a decision to prioritize safety over a lease."

Butler said in the week since the law has been in effect, Gateway has not had the opportunity to "walk someone through the legislation," but she said, Gateway already has a good working relationship with many landlords in the community.

"We've been very fortunate that we have had landlords who, once they hear from us what's going on, are very willing to work with survivors of domestic violence and help them get out of their lease or take their name off the lease, so that it's just the abusive spouse that's responsible for that residence."

Butler said because of the working relationship already in place, some landlords have come to recognize abusive situations among tenants and referred some victims to Gateway for services. 

Under the new law, victims who want their names removed from a lease would have to provide a landlord with a copy of a temporary protective order or other legal document. 

Hammons said for now, Gateway will try to educate the community on the provisions of the new law. 

"I think we've starting as a talking point among advocates who are working with the survivors just to get us more familiar with the law and with the issues that come with the housing barrier," Hammons said. "Then, as cases come up to us we'll know how to approach landlords and understand what the law means now as compared to what it did mean [in the past]."

For more information on Gateway Domestic Violence Center, follow this link

The Gateway Hotline is 770-536-5860. Volunteers answer the hotline 24/7, according to Butler. 

 

 

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News, Politics
  • Associated Tags: Domestic violence, Gateway Domestic Violence Center, House Bill 834
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