Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking will be able to terminate a lease without penalties from a landlord, under an ordinance passed Thursday by the Kansas City Council.
The measure, sponsored by Councilwoman Jolie Justus, will also bar landlords from evicting or otherwise retaliating against victims of such crimes. It passed on an 11-to-0 vote with no debate.
Justus said she introduced the ordinance because of her experience as an attorney running the pro bono program at Shook Hardy Bacon law firm, where she has seen victims of domestic violence and rape trapped in their living arrangements because of leases.
Under the ordinance, effective Aug. 17, a tenant with a protective order from a court or documentation from a medical provider can, with written notice, exit a lease. Landlords will be required to return the full security deposit, unless there is damage to the premises.
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“This is a good tool for us to utilize for some victims,” said Councilwoman Alissia Canady, who chairs the neighborhoods and public safety committee.
The ordinance is supported by MOCSA (Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault) and groups that support assault victims. It received almost no resistance from landlords.
“As a practical matter, most of our operators recognize a protective order as being cause for unilaterally opting out,” Sam Alpert, executive vice president of the Heartland Apartment Association, told the neighborhoods and public safety committee at a hearing on Wednesday.