Can I break my lease due to an assault?

Imagine the terror of a woman, man or elder who is being stalked or who has been assaulted in California and fears for her life because the perpetrator knows where she lives. If it were you, you would likely be on edge all the time, anxious and worrying about it happening again. It is just these circumstances that a state housing law addresses in an effort to make it easier for victims to relocate to a place where they feel safe.

According to the Legal Aid Association of California, victims of stalking, sexual abuse or domestic violence and their families can legally break a lease before it expires. Also covered in the housing law are victims of elder abuse and human trafficking. This applies to all tenants of the same household where a victim lives. It does not guarantee that your landlord may not evict you for other reasons, however.

To be protected under this law, the tenant or family member living with the tenant must have a restraining or protective order, police report or documents from a third party relating to the assault or abuse. These documents must also have been issued within the past 180 days.

A court can issue a protective order or temporary restraining order to bar the alleged offender from contact with the victim. Also acceptable under the law is a police officer’s written report asserting that you or a member of your family filed a report of assault or abuse. The third means of proof is a letter on official letterhead from a counselor, doctor, case worker or another qualified third party. The letter should state that you are seeking help mental or physical injuries or abuse. 

While this information about legally breaking a lease is informative, it should not be perceived as legal advice.

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