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Pa. lawmakers to consider increasing domestic abuse protections

The Pennsylvania state Capitol in Harrisburg.
Matt Rourke
The Pennsylvania state Capitol in Harrisburg.

Amendments to the Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act that hope to provide housing protections to victims of domestic abuse passed the House judiciary committee last week and now await action — and possible changes — by the full House.

House Bill 1441 seeks to give people affected by domestic abuse the ability to terminate a lease and change locks and other means of entry to a housing unit. Similar legislation was recently passed in Pittsburgh.

“This would help ensure that victims have options, that victims have resources when trying to get out of situations and dangerous living situations,” Rep. Lisa Borowski, the bill’s sponsor, said.

Both legislative changes require tenants to provide landlords with documentation such as a doctor’s note or police report to verify their status as a victim of domestic abuse.

Advocates of the state legislation say it will help address housing insecurity for abuse victims. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) says that domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children in Pennsylvania.

“Victims of domestic violence often risk their housing by contacting law enforcement and/or leaving their abuser. They often experience homelessness and housing insecurity because of their efforts to protect themselves and their children,” said Ashley Walkowiak, the PHRC director of policy & intergovernmental affairs.

Rep. Borowski says meetings are planned with stakeholders in December to potentially adjust the bill further before the House takes it up.