Legislation Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Joseph Lagana, Gabriela Mosquera, Benjie Wimberly, Angelica Jimenez, Eliana Pintor Marin and Raj Mukherji sponsored to provide rental and lease protections for domestic violence victims was approved by the General Assembly on Monday.
The bill (A-916) is designed to enhance the protections offered under the "New Jersey Safe Housing Act" by prohibiting a landlord from terminating a tenancy, failing to renew a tenancy or refusing to enter into a rental agreement due to a tenant's or prospective tenant's status as a domestic violence victim.
"Victims of domestic violence must deal with their lives being thrown into upheaval," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "The last thing they need is to have their home uprooted through no fault of their own."
"This bill will provide far greater protections for domestic violence victims in New Jersey," said Lagana (D-Essex). "This measure, in particular, will hopefully provide much-needed stability for domestic violence victims in order to help them overcome the otherwise tumultuous circumstances in their life."
"Finding adequate housing in a timely manner is often crucial in helping domestic violence victims escape their tormentors," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "We need to ensure that the law is on their side in these circumstances."
Under current law, a tenant may terminate a lease prior to its expiration if he or she provides appropriate documentation and written notice that they or their child face an imminent threat of serious physical harm from another person if they remain on the premises.
The bill would amend the act to prohibit a landlord from terminating a tenancy, failing to renew a tenancy or refusing to enter into a rental agreement based on the tenant's, applicant's or household member's status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, or based on the tenant or applicant having terminated a rental agreement pursuant to the act.
"Discriminating against a resident because they are a victim of domestic violence is disturbing and cannot be tolerated," said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Their homes should be protected and not taken away because of a situation that is no fault of their own."
"This is housing discrimination, pure and simple," said Pinto Marin (D-Essex). "We must protect families and their rental rights, especially those who are victims of domestic violence."
"A woman and her children should never be put out on the street because the landlord believes a loud argument or physical violence is a nuisance," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "Punishing victims of domestic violence for the actions of their abusers by taking away their housing is not just wrong but cruel."
The measure, which received unanimous Assembly approval, now awaits further Senate consideration.