Victims of Violence: Getting Out of Your Lease

September 2, 2014

In Virginia, tenants who are victims of domestic violence are afforded special protections.  Virginia’s early lease termination law (codified in Virginia Code § 55-248.21:2) provides certain victims of domestic abuse the right to early termination of their lease.

Who Is Covered by the Law?

To qualify for protection under the early lease termination law, a tenant must have one of the following court orders: (1) a final order of protection for family abuse pursuant to Virginia Code § 16.1-279.1; or (2) an order convicting the tenant’s abuser of any crime of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or family abuse.

The tenant can use a protective order to terminate any lease in effect during the term of the protective order or any extension of the protective order.  A tenant can also use a single conviction order to terminate the lease in effect when the conviction order was entered, or one subsequent lease.

What Steps Does the Tenant Take to Terminate the Lease?

To terminate the lease, the tenant must provide the landlord with written notice of an intent to terminate the lease.  Along with the written notice, the tenant must give the landlord a copy of the protective order or conviction order.  The written notice must specify the date on which the lease will terminate, and the date must be at least 30 days before the next rent payment is due.

Until the termination date stated in the notice, the tenant must continue to pay rent and abide by the terms of the lease. After the termination date, the tenant is no longer required to pay rent to the landlord (the landlord may still come after the tenant for back rent or damages).

Being aware of this law will allow victims of violence to be safe, as well as keep them informed of their rights and options regarding their rental agreement when these situations arise.

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