BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó



                                                                  AB 588
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          ASSEMBLY THIRD READING
          AB 588 (V. Manuel Pérez)
          As Introduced February 16, 2011
          Majority vote 

           JUDICIARY           10-0                                        
           
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          |Ayes:|Feuer, Wagner, Atkins,    |     |                          |
          |     |Dickinson, Silva, Huber,  |     |                          |
          |     |Huffman, Jones, Monning,  |     |                          |
          |     |Wieckowski                |     |                          |
          |-----+--------------------------+-----+--------------------------|
          |     |                          |     |                          |
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           SUMMARY  :  Amends an existing law so that a tenant who is a 
          victim of domestic violence has more time to provide notice of 
          intent to terminate a lease early.  Specifically,  this bill  
          provides that upon informing the landlord of intent to terminate 
          a tenancy because he or she is a victim of domestic violence,  
          sexual assault, or stalking, the tenant must also provide the 
          landlord with a substantiating court order or police report, as 
          specified, that was issued or written within the last 180 days.  
          (Existing law requires the order or report to have been issued 
          or written within the last 60 days.)  
           
          EXISTING LAW  : 
          
          1)Defines the rights and duties of landlords and tenants, 
            including presumptions regarding the terms of the hiring, the 
            lawful means of terminating a lease or rental agreements, and 
            the remedies available to the respective parties in the event 
            of a breach of a lease or rental agreement.  

          2)Provides that if a tenant or lessee of real property breaches 
            the lease and abandons the property before the end of the 
            term, the landlord has two remedies:  deem the lease 
            terminated and seek damages, or continue to perform under the 
            lease and seek rent as it comes due.  

          3)Permits a tenant or a tenant's household member who was a 
            victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking to 
            terminate a rental agreement and be discharged from rental 
            payments due, as specified.  The tenant must provide the 








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            landlord with a copy of a temporary restraining order, 
            emergency protective order, or a written report by a peace 
            officer stating that the tenant or household member has filed 
            a police report alleging that the tenant or household member 
            is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. 
             Specifies that the notice to terminate the tenancy shall be 
            given within 60 days of the date that the order was issued or 
            the police report made.  
           
          4)Requires a landlord to change the locks of a tenant's 
            dwelling, under specified circumstances, where the tenet or a 
            member of the tenant's household is a victim of domestic 
            violence, sexual assault, or stalking and provides the 
            landlord with copies of a court order or police report, as 
            specified, that has been issued or made within the last 180 
            days.  

          5)Prohibits a landlord, under certain circumstances, from 
            terminating or failing to renew a tenancy against a tenant 
            based on acts of domestic violence, sexual assault, or 
            stalking against the tenant or household member.  Provides 
            that the act or acts domestic violence, sexual assault, or 
            stalking must be documented by a court order or police report 
            that was issued or created within the last 180 days.  

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  None 
           
          COMMENTS  :  Tenants who are victims of domestic violence often 
          face special problems relating to their tenancy.  On the one 
          hand, as a matter of self- or family protection, a tenant may 
          need to vacate a residence but discovers that he or she cannot 
          easily do so because of obligations under a long-term lease.  On 
          the other hand, some innocent victims of domestic violence have 
          been evicted due to the nuisance created by the behavior of the 
          violent abuser.  Existing law addresses both of these issues.  
          This bill would extend the timeframe within which a victim of 
          domestic violence may take advantage of the early termination 
          provisions of existing law. 

          This straight-forward bill amends an existing law that protects 
          tenants who have been victims of domestic violence by allowing 
          for early termination of a lease when their safety depends upon 
          it.  Civil Code Section 1946.7, which became effective in 
          September of 2008, permits a tenant to notify a landlord that 








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          the tenant or a member of the tenant's household was a victim of 
          domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and that the 
          tenant intends to terminate the tenancy because of this.  If 
          there is a long-term rather than a month-to-month lease, the 
          tenant is only responsible for payment of rent for 30 days 
          following the giving of the notice of intent.  Without such 
          protection, a victim of domestic violence in a long term lease 
          would be forced to choose between remaining until the lease runs 
          out, which may put the victim and victim's family at risk, or be 
          obligated to pay rent for the entire term of the lease.  In 
          order to take advantage of this law, the notice to terminate the 
          tenancy must be accompanied by a copy of a court order or police 
          report showing that the tenant has been a victim of domestic 
          violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  However, under this 
          existing law, the court order or police report must have been 
          issued or written within the past 60 days.   

          A parallel provision in existing law, which seeks to protect 
          victims of domestic violence from being unfairly evicted because 
          of the actions of an abuser, requires that court orders or 
          police reports have been issued or written with the last 180 
          days.  Not only will this proposed bill make these parallel 
          provisions in existing law consistent, the author and supporters 
          point out that extending the timeframe will give victims more 
          flexibility in determining whether the threat to themselves and 
          their families is so great that they must make the difficult 
          decision to give up their homes.   

          In addition, because the purpose of the court order or police 
          report is simply to provide evidence of a pattern and history of 
          domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking - not to show 
          that there is an existing or effective order in place - the 60 
          day limitation seems rather arbitrary.  For example, the author 
          cites statutes in about a dozen other states that have similar 
          protections but do not impose any time limit on the supporting 
          documentation.  Finally, it is difficult to see how the 
          extension of the timeframe will impose any increased burden on 
          the landlord.  Whether the order issued two months earlier or 
          six month earlier, the landlord is only entitled to rent for the 
          30 days following receipt of notice.  The landlord's obligation 
          is determined from the time that notice is given, not from the 
          time that supporting documents were issued.  In short, the 
          extension of the notice period from 60 to 180 days appears to be 
          a reasonable change that will afford greater protection and 








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          flexibility to survivors of domestic abuse without imposing any 
          greater burden on the landlord.  This probably explains why the 
          landlord associations, who were very involved in negotiations on 
          the previous two bills, have not yet weighed in on this measure. 


          Crime Victims United of California supports this bill because 
          "victims of domestic violence do not always petition to be 
          released from their leases within the current 60 day time frame 
          because their offender has been arrested" and, the victim hopes, 
          the offender "will be in custody for long periods of time."  
          However, if the offender is later released and continues to 
          harass, stalk, abuse, or otherwise pose a threat to the victim, 
          the 60 days may have passed and "the victim would have to then 
          break the lease and face financial hardship or wait out the term 
          of the lease agreement, compromising her safety." 

          According to the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence 
          (CPEDV), this measure will "allow considerably more Ýdomestic 
          violence] survivors to use the life-saving protections that 
          Civil Code Section 1946.7 offers."  CPEDV reports that they have 
          conducted several trainings for staff on how to help survivors 
          move safely with the help of existing law.  CPEDV contends that 
          giving the victim added flexibility is critical, especially in 
          light of budget cuts and an economic recession that have 
          decreased the availability of domestic violence shelters and 
          affordable housing alternatives. 

          The Western Center on Law & Poverty (WCLP) and the California 
          Rural Legal Assistance Foundation (CRLA) argue that this bill 
          makes "a simple but important change in the law for survivors of 
          domestic violence."  WCLP and CRLA note that, in many cases, 
          "the perpetrator may be absent from the property for more than 
          60 days, then return."  Because the tenant-survivor is reluctant 
          to move from his or her home unless it is absolutely necessary, 
          this absolute necessity may not become apparent until more than 
          60 days after the initial court order was issued or the police 
          report prepared.  WCLP and CRLA add that "this modest change 
          will impose no undue hardship on landlords," especially given 
          that even before this protection was enacted landlords often 
          granted a victim's request to terminate a lease for reasons both 
          humane and practical, such as to avoid damage to property or 
          preserve the quiet enjoyment of other tenants.  "The same logic 
          applies to the extension of time proposed" in this bill, WCLP 








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          and CRLA conclude. 


           Analysis Prepared by  :    Thomas Clark / JUD. / (916) 319-2334 


                                                                FN: 0000133