California Bill Would Expand Door Lock Change Protections for Abuse Survivors

California Bill Would Expand Door Lock Change Protections for Abuse Survivors

Scratches are seen by the lock on the front door of a home where abuse allegedly occurred in Fairfield, Calif., in this file photo. (Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images)

Rudy Blalock
Rudy Blalock

6/26/2024

Updated: 6/27/2024

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California landlords might soon have new rules to follow for changing the door locks of abuse survivors after a bill cleared both the state Assembly and Senate.
The legislation was introduced by Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, a Democrat from Stockton, and would require landlords to pay for changing the door locks.
“Survivors of domestic violence need to feel protected in their own homes and the changing of the locks is an important piece that California still needs to address,” Sen. Eggman said in a May Senate Floor analysis.
Under Senate Bill 1051, landlords are also barred from rejecting abuse survivors for having their door locks changed, ending their lease early, or summoning police because of the abuse, or they could face a fine of $100 to $5,000.
The proposed change would help abuse survivors find housing, since landlords can now reject rental applications of those with a reported history of abuse and police encounters from it, according to lawmakers in a June bill analysis by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Current law already requires landlords change the locks of those who have reported abuse within 24 hours, upon the receipt of a police report or court order. If a landlord does not do so, tenants can change—and pay for—the locks on their own.
The new bill mandates landlords pay for the change or reimburse tenants who change the locks themselves.
The bill also expands the list of acceptable documents authorizing the switch, allowing a statement from a “qualified” third party, which can include domestic violence counselors, human trafficking caseworkers, sexual assault counselors, and health practitioners such as social workers, surgeons, psychiatrists, and psychologists, among others.
Citing Department of Justice data, lawmakers also said in the June analysis some 2 in 5 survivors don’t report their abuse to authorities, so allowing third-party statements would make it easier for survivors to fast-track protections under the law.
The bill would also expand who qualifies as a victim of abuse in the household, including family members of the tenant, those who have a relationship “substantially” similar to that of a family member, and those living in the same household during the alleged abuse.
While the bill aims to help renters maintain safe and affordable housing, which landlords want to provide, it also adds potential legal challenges for housing providers, according to Daniel Yukelson, the executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles.
“Once again, however, the burden of reacting, complying, and paying for services is being imposed on rental housing providers who are completely uninvolved with their residents’ personal situations and are being forced by the state, at our cost, to take action within 24 hours by changing locks,” he told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.
He said landlords may be unavailable or not receive a notice from their tenants on time to respond within 24 hours, and they could face consequences under the new law.
He said adult renters “should be mature enough and capable of addressing their personal situations ... paying for a locksmith to address a situation their landlord did not create and is completely uninvolved with.”
If signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the new law will apply to leases that started on or after Jan. 1, 2011.
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Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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