Domestic Violence Victims Protection Act passes State Senate

virginia general assembly

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A bill to prevent landlords from denying housing to domestic violence victims because of their credit history is headed to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam.

The Domestic Violence Victims Protection Act, HB 99, introduced by Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, passed the Senate on Monday on a 40-0 vote.

The bill had passed the House of Delegates earlier this month on an 80-20 vote.

The legislation is the brainchild of a domestic violence survivor who attended a “You Write the Bill” participatory lawmaking session in September.

“The You Write the Bill Program gave me the tools to help fix a loophole that was hurting a lot of domestic violence victims,” said Kiesha Preston, of Roanoke. “I am thrilled to be able to take my past experiences and turn it into something that will help survivors.”

“This is great example of how lowering the barrier for engagement with our constituents creates better legislation. Without Kiesha’s participation, this issue may have not been addressed,” Rasoul said.

In the process of rehousing, Preston discovered exactly how difficult it is for victims to find new homes. When she started her apartment search, she had a good job, was financially stable, and was more than capable of paying her bills. But no one would approve her for housing because her credit was damaged in the process of ending the relationship with her abuser.

Preston and her children were two weeks away from being homeless when a landlord opted not to check her credit history and approved her application.

Currently, it’s difficult for landlords to look past financial abuse when determining eligibility for tenants. This bill went through a couple of different substitutes, but the final version ensures that a landlord shall consider evidence of an applicant’s status as a victim of family abuse to mitigate any adverse effect of an otherwise qualified applicant’s low credit score.

HB 99 is one of 11 bills Rasoul submitted for drafting this year as a result of the “You Write the Bill” series. These sessions encourage citizens to participate in the legislative process. Participants submit a bill proposal and learn about the lawmaking process and how to lobby effectively for their bill.

The following stakeholders where involved in the drafting process: Virginia Poverty Law Center, Virginia Realtor Association, Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance, Virginia Apartment & Office Building Association, and Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc.

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