Kessler bill provides protection for tenants

For most people, home is where they feel safe. But tenants who are sexually assaulted or harassed by their landlords are never safe at home, even when they lock their doors. In these cases, the state's landlord/tenant law doesn't allow the tenant to change the locks.

"How could you ever sleep?" asked Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, whose 24th District includes Clallam County.

Kessler's bill would allow tenants who are sexually assaulted, harassed, or stalked by their landlords to change or add locks to their unit at their own expense. They also would be permitted to break their leases without penalty, and be entitled to a pro rata refund for any rent already paid in the month they move out.

The same protections would apply if the victim was a member of the tenant's household.

The bill is one of several that Kessler has sponsored in recent years to protect victims of abuse, assault and harassment. Previously, she successfully piloted a bill through the Legislature that gave victims the ability to take time off from work in order to find safe housing and navigate the court system without losing their jobs.

"This kind of legislation saves lives," she said.

House Bill 1856 is scheduled for executive session in the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow, Feb. 19.

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