On Tuesday, January 14, HB 1796 passed the Pennsylvania house. It is now being considered in the state senate. Below is an excerpt from my article on the bill, published last Monday:
When the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed its federal lawsuit in April 2013 on behalf of Lakisha Briggs, a domestic violence survivor evicted from her Pennsylvania home due to a local nuisance ordinance, it brought to light an issue harming many survivors of intimate partner violence: that these property ordinances, meant to cull blight and disruptive behaviors in communities, often displace innocent victims of crime.
On Monday, the Pennsylvania General Assembly considered for a second time HB 1796, the first statewide bill in the nation seeking to protect all victims of crime or abuse from experiencing similar maltreatment. Introduced in October, the bill would prohibit Commonwealth municipalities from penalizing a resident, tenant, or landlord for requesting police or emergency assistance if such contact was made “upon the reasonable belief” that assistance was needed to prevent “the perpetration or escalation of … the abuse, crime or emergency … or if the intervention or emergency assistance was actually needed in response to the abuse, crime or emergency.”
In other words, under HB 1796, districts could not use police calls made to a property due to domestic violence incidents as a reason to evict or threaten eviction, revoke or threaten to revoke a rental license, or impose fines in pursuant to a nuisance property ordinance. And if a municipality does unlawfully enforce the ordinance, the victim has the right to recoup fees and damages in civil court if they’re “displaced by virtue of the fact that they’re a victim,” state Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery County), the lawmaker and former prosecutor behind the bill, told RH Reality Check.
“[HB 1796] is not window dressing. This is the real deal. Any victim who a municipality tries to have evicted will have plenty of rights,” Rep. Stephens said…