Law al­lows ten­ant to end lease

In Cal­i­for­nia, vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence are given spe­cial pro­tec­tions that let them move out early.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Molly Cur­rent

Ques­tion: I have re­cently been through a ter­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ence with my exboyfrien­d and want to know if there is some way to get out of my lease early. My ex and I moved in to­gether about six months ago. We signed a one-year lease.

Un­for­tu­nately, shortly af­ter we moved in to­gether, my ex be­came phys­i­cally abu­sive to­ward me. Things kept es­ca­lat­ing and I fi­nally got a pro­tec­tive or­der against him, but I am still scared be­cause he ob­vi­ously knows where I live and his name is on the lease too.

For my own safety, I re­ally think it would be bet­ter for me to move. I have told my land­lord that I want to leave, but he said if I leave I will have to con­tinue to pay rent un­til the end of the lease un­less he can find some­one else to rent the apart­ment.

I can’t af­ford to pay rent on two places at once, but I don’t feel safe here. What can I do?

An­swer: The short an­swer is that you can ter­mi­nate your lease early with­out be­ing re­spon­si­ble for ad­di­tional rent whether or not your land­lord likes it.

In Cal­i­for­nia, sur­vivors of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, sex­ual as­sault, stalk­ing, hu­man traf­fick­ing, el­der abuse or de­pen­dent adult abuse have spe­cial pro­tec­tions. One of these pro­tec­tions al­lows a sur­vivor to ter­mi­nate a lease be­fore it ends.

Nor­mally a ten­ant who moves out be­fore the end of a lease agree­ment can be held re­spon­si­ble for all the rent that would be owed un­til the lease ex­pires, and a land­lord can sue for this money. Cal­i­for­nia Civil Code 1946.7, how­ever, al­lows a sur­vivor to give the land­lord a 14-day no­tice of his or her in­tent to break the lease, move out and no longer be re­quired to pay rent.

The Civil Code pro­vides this pro­tec­tion in the fol­low­ing cir­cum­stance:

You rent and have a lease;

You have a re­strain­ing or­der/pro­tec­tive or­der, a po­lice re­port or a signed doc­u­ment from a cer­tain kind of pro­fes­sional; and

You need to move be­cause you, or a fam­ily mem­ber liv­ing with you, are the vic­tim of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, sex­ual as­sault, stalk­ing, hu­man traf­fick­ing, el­der abuse or de­pen­dent adult abuse.

As long as your pro­tec­tive or­der is no more than 180 days old, you should no­tify your land­lord in writ­ing that you are a vic­tim of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and that you want to end the lease. You must give a min­i­mum of 14 days’ no­tice.

You can move out any time af­ter giv­ing no­tice, but you will be re­spon­si­ble for rent up to 14 days af­ter you give no­tice.

Cur­rent is fair hous­ing di­rec­tor for Project Sen­tinel, a Bay Area non­profit. For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact Project Sen­tinel at 1-888-324-7468, info@hous­ing.org, visit www.hous­ing.org or con­tact your at­tor­ney or lo­cal hous­ing agency.

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