This article was posted on Saturday, Apr 01, 2023

Co-sponsored by Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) and approved by Governor Newsom on September 27, 2022, SB 1017 allows survivors who are tenants to retain their current housing, avoid eviction and even sue their landlord who tries to unlawfully evict them because of the abuse. 

“There are already significant protections in place in California for survivors; one of those protections was allowing victims to terminate their leases early and only making them responsible for up to two weeks of rent after giving the property owner notice,” said Eggman. 

“But it requires documentation, which is always a barrier for survivors of domestic violence.”

One of those preexisting protections is California Code of Civil Procedure 1161.3—the Eviction Defense Law, requiring survivors to prove that they experienced abuse by providing specific documentation like police reports, court orders and qualified third party statements from groups like Lumina Alliance, an advocacy group for survivors of domestic violence.

Under the code, victims must never allow their abuser to return to the property in order to keep themselves and neighboring tenants safe. 

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However, there are loopholes in the law, necessitating SB 1017. Jane Pomeroy, of Lumina, said that apart from the list of eligible documentation of abuse being limited, obtaining the documentation in the first place is difficult. “There are always barriers to reporting and seeking service for fear of not being believed, for fear of retaliation, not being ready to seek support, or not wanting to get their partner in trouble.”

SB 1017 expands the document list to include information from advocates of victims of violent crimes, and eliminates a loophole in the previous statute that prevented survivors from claiming eviction protection if their abuser was also a tenant on the property who no longer lives there.

The Problem with SB 1017 

SB 1017 gives survivors of domestic violence in their rental unit the option to remain there on the same terms as the previous lease and ensuring they will not be a party in the eviction case.  If the court finds that the landlord unlawfully evicted them because of the abuse, survivors can sue the property owner for statutory damages of up to $5,000 in a civil action.

However, SB 1017 retains a key provision of the original statute, allowing for the revocation of protections if the tenant “voluntarily allows the abuser back on property” and the abuser becomes a threat to other building residents. 

Eliminating language in the current statute that invalidates protections if the survivor “allows” the abusive person to enter the property, does not reflect the research-based realities of domestic violence relationships. Victims of domestic violence often let their abusers back into their lives for one of more of these reasons: 

  1. Fear of leaving is greater than the fear of staying; 
  2. Feeling that they have more control by remaining in the abusive relationship; 
  3. The abuser promises that it will never happen again and the victim wants to believe that this is true; 
  4. The victim may believe that the abuser is sick and needs their help; and 
  5. The victim may come to believe that she (or he) somehow deserves the abuse.

Given the often manipulative nature of many domestic abusers and the compromised emotional, physical, or financial state of the victim, this “glitch” in SB 1017 muddies the waters and puts both the victim of the abuse, the property owner caught in the middle, and other residents in the building at risk.

Reprinted with permission of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute (SPOSFI) News.  For more information on becoming a member of SPOSFI or to send a tax-deductible donation, please visit their website at or call (415) 647-2419.