One woman's fight to take a stance against violent crime after being raped in her Richland apartment in 2009 has effectively helped change the way landlords throughout the state are required to secure duplicate apartment keys.
A gap in the Landlord-Tenant Act that failed to address what landlords do with tenants' extra keys was closed this week when House Bill 1647, also known as the Safe Keys Bill, was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.
The driving force behind the new law was 51-year-old Dana Widrig.
Widrig was brutally beaten with a metal bar and raped after a maintenance worker took a key from the manager's office and broke into her apartment.
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Widrig suffered a shattered arm and wrist and required 43 stitches in her head. Her attacker, Cody Joseph Kloepper, was convicted in 2011. He's serving a minimum sentence of 241/2 years in prison for the attack.
She settled a lawsuit in 2013 against The Villas at Meadow Springs apartment complex, where she lived, and two companies hired to manage the complex.
Since the attack, Widrig has been looking to change the way duplicate keys are secured.
The bill -- co-sponsored by state Rep. Larry Haler -- requires landlords to secure extra keys with "reasonable care."
The "reasonable care" language doesn't set a universal standard for securing keys, said state Rep. Gael Tarleton of Ballard, who sponsored the bill.
Instead, it gives each landlord flexibility depending on their individual situation, to protect both landlords and tenants, Tarleton said.
"It makes landlords start asking the question -- what is being done with these keys?" said Kristina McKennon, who represented Widrig in the civil suit. "If this saves the life of one person than it's worth it."
Before the Safe Keys Bill, landlords had no legal requirement to secure tenants' keys. Haler said he was appalled to find that out.
"I never would have imagined there would not be some way of maintaining the safety of keys," Haler said.
The bill moved quickly through the House and the Senate after it was introduced in early February. It passed the House unanimously in early April, the Senate in mid-April.
There were only five nay votes on the bill out of the 147 votes in both the House and the Senate, McKennon said.
Tarleton and Haler both said part of the reason for the strong support was the powerful story Widrig told when she testified and the courage she showed in coming forward.
"She is one of the most courageous people I know," Tarleton said.McKennon said Widrig has made it her life's work to advocate for victims and to help make sure nothing like what happened to her happens to anybody else.
"For many victims of violent crime she is a hero," she said.