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Domestic Violence Law Protects Mass. Renters


NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB) — In January, Governor Patrick signed into law Housing Rights for Victims of Domestic Violence, Rape, Sexual Assault and Stalking.

The law makes it possible for victims who rent apartments to break their lease without financial penalty if they don’t feel safe.

“We’ve had a couple actually apply the law, and many, many learn about the law and look and see if it fits their situation. There are other provisions also. It’s a little bit easier for those who have a lease or rental agreement in their name to stay, and getting the abuser evicted,” said Executive director of Northampton’s Safe Passage, Marianne Winters.

Safe Passage also provides victims with temporary shelter.

Although Winters appreciates that the law has provided one more option to help domestic violence victims, she finds it’s an option many still don’t know about.

“We find that when a situation like the Remy case is in the media, a lot of legislative options and statutes get put in the forefront. We try to promote it among our staff, our volunteers, so that we’re versed in it,  we share a lot with local law enforcement, the DA’s office to share back and forth, so, getting it into the hands of the public is really important,” added Winters.

There are several other provisions to the law, like being able to change your locks when you need to, and providing protection against eviction, getting an order of protection, or calling the police.

Yet when it comes to relocating people, Waters says they’re hitting a snag.

Even if someone has the means to move out of their apartment, they have trouble finding a new place to live, because of a lack of available housing.

A landlord also cannot ask you to waive your rights of the law.

Though this law applies to all applicants and tenants, those who live in federally assisted housing programs have expanded rights under the Violence Against Women Act.

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