When someone has been a victim of domestic violence, getting away from their abuser is often a major challenge. Abusers often stalk and terrorize victims when they are trying to leave the relationship. For some victims, the safest and most necessary option is to immediately leave their home and find sanctuary in a domestic violence shelter or move to an undisclosed location. However, the victim may be worried about having to balance safety concerns with the consequences of breaking his or her residential lease. Fortunately, Arizona law provides a way for someone in this situation to be excused from their rental obligation. Here is what you need to know about domestic violence and your lease.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. In Arizona, every 44 minutes, one or more children witness domestic violence. One of the most vulnerable times for a victim is when he or she is trying to leave the abuser. Time can be of the essence, and in some situations it’s important that the victim be able to move as soon as possible.
In recognition of the seriousness of this issue, the Arizona legislature enacted A.R.S. § 33-1318, a statute which allows a person who has been the victim of domestic violence, to ask to be released from their residential lease without being charged termination fees, costs, or future rent.
The statute provides that a tenant may terminate his or her rental agreement by providing their landlord with written notice that they have been a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault within 30 days of the offense. The victim will not be liable for future rent, penalties, or fees if they provide: (1) written notice requesting release within the next 30 days on a mutually agreed upon date along with, (2) a copy of a valid protective order or law enforcement report of the domestic violence or sexual assault.
The tenant will only be liable for the rent owed through the date of the lease termination plus any prior obligations. The landlord must return the tenant’s security deposit unless he or she has damaged the property. However, the landlord may keep any pre-paid rent. The termination of the victim’s lease releases everyone on the contract from their obligations. If the remaining tenants want to stay, they will have to sign a new lease. A person seeking to terminate their lease under these conditions can request that the landlord change his or her locks. The tenant will have to pay for the installation.
Laura B. Bramnick is an experienced Arizona real estate attorney who can help you with your residential lease issues. If you are seeking an exceptional, client-driven real estate lawyer in Scottsdale, Phoenix, Sedona, and throughout the State of Arizona, contact Laura B. Bramnick to schedule your consultation.