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New Legislation Allows for Domestic Violence Victims to Break Leases Early


By Allison Rudzitis

On August 8, 2016, the Residential Tenancies (Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence) Amendment Act, 2015 (the “Act”) came into force. Essentially, the Act allows for persons suffering from domestic violence to break residential leases early without financial penalty.

For the purposes of the Act, a person suffering from domestic violence includes the actual person, that person’s dependent child, or a protected adult who lives with that person. The person inflicting the violence can be the married to that person, in an adult interdependent partnership with that person, dating that person, the biological or adoptive parent of that person, related by blood to that person, or resides/cares for/has custody over that person.

The acts or omissions that constitute domestic violence within the Act include but are not limited to: injury, property damage, intimidation, psychological or emotional abuse, forced confinement, sexual contact of any kind that is coerced by force or threat, and stalking.

In order to terminate a residential lease for reasons of domestic violence, the tenant is required to provide the landlord with at least 28 days’ notice before the tenancy is set to terminate, and a certificate outlining grounds for termination of the lease. Assuming the notice is properly served on the landlord, the tenant is only responsible for rent during the period of notice. Further, the tenant is not subject to penalty payments under the tenancy agreement for early termination, and may request, if applicable, that the landlord apply the security deposit paid in respect of the leased premise in payment of the rent during the notice period.

The certificate referenced above can only be issued by the Ministry of Human Services, and may issue said certificate if the tenant can produce a copy of an emergency protection order, or statement from a medical professional, police officer, or other recognized individual attesting to the domestic violence.
Given the complexities that arise in domestic violence scenarios, it remains to be seen whether these provisions of the Act will be an effective tool in providing relief to those persons suffering from domestic violence. Regardless, it is important that both landlords and tenants understand their respective rights and realities under this new legislation.

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