The victims of domestic violence face a lot of hardships — including some centered around their ability to find safe housing.
If you’re a victim of violence, make sure that you understand your rights when it comes to being a renter. While landlords probably don’t intentionally set out to make things harder for the victims of violence, confusion about the law can sometimes have that result.
When you need to suddenly leave
If you’re the target of an abuser’s unrelenting focus, there comes a time when it is simply saner and safer to move to a new, undisclosed location. Unfortunately, that can be difficult to do if your landlord tries to hold you to a lease that’s still got a while to go. You may be worried about being sued for the remainder of the lease if you just desert your current rental — or what the effects on your credit will be if you just don’t pay.
The law actually offers you some relief. If you’ve been the victim of a violent act within the last 30 days, you can give your landlord notice that you need to terminate your lease early for your own safety.
Once you submit the notice, you can only have up to 30 days to vacate the location, but you are released from any further obligation toward your rental contract.
When security deposits are an issue
You are generally entitled to your security deposit back even though you are vacating the lease early. There’s a caveat, however.
Keep in mind that your landlord does have a right to keep the security deposit (or a part of it, at least) if there is damage to the rental property above the normal “wear and tear” that’s expected from daily use. That does include damage to the property caused by your abuser. Even though you may not have caused the damage yourself, it would be unfair to impose that liability on the landlord.
It’s smart to discuss the issues with your landlord as soon as you are aware of the situation. Often, the best way to avoid a serious dispute with your landlord is to simply be proactive or direct in your approach.