Bill would allow domestic violence victims in Nevada to break leases

CARSON CITY — Las Vegas police and the Republican leader of the Senate gave their support Friday to a bill that would allow domestic violence victims to break rental leases, even if they have not filed a police report against their abusers.

Police officer Chuck Calloway and Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, backed Assembly Bill 284, a proposal by Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, to allow victims to break leases.

The bill specifies three ways victims could end a lease without suffering financial consequences from the landlord: by filing a police report, securing a restraining order, or by a third-party affidavit signed by a psychologist, nurse, social worker, volunteer board member of a domestic violence organization, a member of the clergy or another person.

This third-party route to break leases caused eight Republicans in the Assembly to vote against the bill because they thought abusers would escape punishment or the violence might be faked. The bill won Assembly approval 31-8, but supporters felt it could fail in the Senate where Democrats hold a narrow 11-10 lead.

While the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee did not vote out the bill after nearly a three-hour hearing Friday, the support from Calloway and Roberson virtually guarantees its chances of passing.

Flores cried briefly in discussing the domestic violence she experienced from a male partner when she was in her early 20s. Not only was she battered, but she said her abuser poured bleach on her clothes when she returned later to gather her property. She testified she was held responsible for the rent on the lease she broke and had to pay months of advance payments before she could rent another apartment.

Calloway testified that sometimes victims fear calling police because the perpetrator will say, “I will leave with the kids and you will never see them,” or they fear once police leave that they will be subject to further abuse.

“And sometimes it is outright distrust of police,” he added.

He noted his department responded to 22,000 domestic violence disputes last year and he has read that two-thirds of such cases never are reported to police.

His comments were echoed by Marlene Lockard of the Committee to Aid Abused Women.

“They not only will threaten the victim but other family members,” she said. “They know where they live. Horrible things have happened because they seek retribution.”

Roberson said the bill was the right thing to do.

In the Assembly, the opposition was led by Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, who testified that she had secured a restraining order against an abuser.

Because the bill allows a third-party affidavit route to break a lease, Fiore said Friday that the perpetrator can escape justice.

“Without documentation with law enforcement, the perpetrators of domestic violence would remain free in our communities and continue to terrorize victims,” she said.

But Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, spoke of amending the bill so the perpetrator is named in the affidavits and making them liable for loses suffered by landlords.