Is Domestic Violence Legal Grounds for Early Lease Termination?
In the #MeToo era, women’s issues are taking a forefront in news media. Sexual assault or household abuse cases can be legal grounds for a tenant to break a rigid lease contract; but what are your legal duties as a landlord and what are your rights?
As of 2017, 27 of the 50 States employ early lease termination laws for victims of domestic abuse. Although the guidelines for each state vary, there are a few common guidelines to follow:
The tenant must give written notice to end the lease along with a copy of one of these factors:
- Temporary restraining order or emergency protective order.
- Written report by a peace agent from state or local law enforcement. It should detail that the tenant or household member has filed a report claiming that he or she or the household member is a victim of household abuse, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking, or abuse of an elder.
- Report from a licensed expert stating that the tenant is seeking help for physical or mental abuse.
In cases where a tenant reaches out to the landlord with claims of domestic violence but does not have the appropriate documentation, it is appropriate for landlords to encourage the victim to seek the help of a law enforcement agency or other professionals. This will facilitate the victim with the opportunity to retrieve the necessary legal documentation and get the other assistance they need.
A full guide of individual state laws can be found here.