Committee passes bill to end housing discrimination against domestic violence victims

Sen. Sharon Weston Broome
Sen. Sharon Weston Broome

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Currently in Louisiana if you rent property and are a victim of domestic violence you can be evicted. A bill was debated in the House Commerce Committee Tuesday seeking to change that. There were strong feelings all around.

Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, introduced the measure to help victims she says are being denied fair housing.

Beth Meeks is the executive director of the Louisiana Coalition against Domestic Violence.

"The legislation simply says if you know a person is a victim of domestic violence we are asking that you not hold that against them when you're renting to them and that you might consider that when you're making evictions for behavior at a property," Meeks testified.

But opponents quickly began picking apart the measure, saying it was entirely too broad.

"What you're doing with this bill is taking the rights away from both the landlord and the tenants in the complex. That's major. I don't know if you can overcome financially with something like this to be able to determine what's happening because it's so broad," said Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Houma.

Opponents say there are liability issues and they want to retain their rights to evict people.

Kate Scott, who testified in favor of the bill, is with the New Orleans Fair Housing Action Committee.

"Too often victims are punished by the acts of their abusers," says Scott. "Victims are held liable for the violence of another and in many of these cases adverse housing actions such as evictions puts the burden of ending the violence on the victim rather than the perpetrator."

The bill was amended a dozen or so times before it satisfied the committee. Next it goes to the  House floor for consideration.

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