Victims of sexual assault often have a long road to recovery ahead of them. Even after the physical injuries heal, victims of sexual violence must recuperate mentally and emotionally, a process that can take several months or more. Previously, victims could face impediments to this recovery process for practical reasons, such as being stuck in a lease with their abusers. Now, a new Arizona law aims to change all that: learn about the new law and how victims can effectively get away from their abusers by reading below.
New Options for Victims of Sexual Violence
Starting in August, any Arizona residents who endured sexual assault in their apartments or rented dwellings can break their leases without paying any of the termination costs outlined in a traditional leasing contract. The move comes thanks to the action of Rep. Daniel Hernandez, who worked with a woman who endured a sexual assault in her apartment but was unable to break her lease. The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that a neighbor raped her, but her landlord told her she could not break her lease.
Lease termination fees can easily run into the thousands of dollars, leaving victims of sexual assault with few options to feel safe in their environments. This notion seemed inhumane to Hernandez, who immediately went to work to change the current legal landscape.
Soon, Hernandez and another lawmaker, Rep. Maria Syms, proposed a bipartisan measure that would allow victims of sexual assault to break their leases without any fees. The proposal was a rider onto an existing law that already offered such a protection to victims of domestic abuse. The Hernandez-Syms proposal, which added language to protect all victims of sexual assault, passed the Arizona House and Senate with wide margins. Governor Doug Ducey signed the provision into law in May. The hope, according to Syms, is that victims will not be forced to remember the incidents by being trapped in their own homes. Victims already suffer enough, and they deserve to feel safe where they live.
How Arizona Residents Can Get Out of Their Leases
One of the main concerns opponents to the bill had was that it would be too easy for people to exploit. However, strict requirements successfully alleviate any concern. For example, victims of sexual assault who wish to break their leases must provide evidence of a police report or a personal protective order upon their request for lease termination, which must occur within 30 days. A landlord may choose to provide more time if he or she wishes.
Additionally, a property manager may also go after the sexual assailant or domestic abuser for the costs of terminating a lease early, if that person is in a protective order or police report. Finally, anyone who falsely accuses someone of domestic or sexual violence to get out of a lease may be liable for three times the amount outlined in the lease for early termination.
What to Do If You Need to Break a Lease
If you or a loved one have been a victim of sexual violence and want to break a lease, take the following action:
- Report the incident as soon as possible to the police, and seek a personal order of protection, if applicable.
- Request termination of your lease within 30 days of the incident.
- Tell your landlord about Arizona Revised Statute 33-1318, which outlines the new law.
- Make your request to vacate the premises in writing, with a proposed move-out date.
Landlords cannot charge you termination fees if you meet these conditions, and they cannot hold your security deposit without another cause (such as damage to the apartment). If you have any further questions, talk to a Phoenix personal injury attorney by contacting us online or over the phone.