Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Yay for Small Victories! Wisconsin amends housing rights to include domestic violence victims

Govenor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin has officially signed the Safe Housing Act into law! This new law allows victims of domestic violence to break rental agreements without penalty if they provide their landlord with documentation such as a criminal complaint or a restraining order. The law also makes leases void if landlords punish tenants for calling police or emergency services and prohibits municipalities from enforcing ordinances that charge fees to property owners when tenants call police for help in domestic violence situations.

While supporters have praised this latest effort to reduce the number barriers to leaving domestic violence situations, Kathy Kintopf, account executive with Start Renting and board member of the Fox Valley Apartment Association opposes the legislations and believes that it would place an undue burden on landlords. She issued this charming statement.
“I don’t know if it really protects anyone else in the building if that victim moves out,” Kintopf said. “Where does it stop? Would the bank let me out of my mortgage? Landlords are in favor of helping people, but I’m not convinced this is the best way.”

There are a lot of things wrong with this quote. First, the primary victim is the only one who is in need of protection. The rest of the tenants are only in tangential danger. For example, if the abuser decides to set the apartment on fire, or ends up in a hostage taking situation or shootout with the police then the other people in the building are put in harms way. But that sort of problem is solved if the victim is allowed to move out.
As far as the question of "Where does it stop?" goes, that single sentence truly encapsulates the horrific amount of societal bias against victims of domestic violence. It insinuates that these are people who are either lying or who in some way deserve what they get. The scenario of the bank letting Ms. Kintopf out of her mortgage is not comparable and she must know that. In most areas of the country, finding a new tenant is no more than a minor inconvenience. Basically it seems that she would rather have blood on her hands than be "burdened" by a little lost money.

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