New law lets sexual assault victims break their lease
By Judge Gerald A. Williams
Under previously existing Arizona landlord and tenant law, victims of domestic violence could break their lease. Thanks to a new law, which went into effect on August 3, 2018, sexual assault victims can now do so as well.
The bipartisan legislation was adopted in response to a woman who was attacked by a neighbor. She was unable to break her lease without penalty under the existing law because the person who sexually assaulted her had been neither her husband nor boyfriend. As such, her attack did not meet the definition of domestic violence.
Now either a sexual assault or a domestic violence victim can lawfully break their lease without penalty as long as the victim provides at least one of the following documents:
- a copy of either an Order of Protection or an Injunction Against Harassment with the victim listed as the Plaintiff.
- a copy of a report from a law enforcement agency stating that the victim reported herself (or himself) as a victim of either domestic violence or sexual assault.
The tenant needs to provide documentation to the landlord within 30 days of the actions, events, or circumstances that resulted in the tenant being a victim. If the tenant misses this deadline, the landlord can waive the 30-day time standard.
The victim still must pay rent owed through the date of the lease termination, but the tenant will not owe any penalties for breaking the lease early. If the tenant does not want to move, he or she has the option of requiring her landlord either to rekey or to replace the locks.
There are some substantial penalties if someone falsely claims to be a victim just to break their lease. By statute, the landlord could seek treble damages from the former tenant. In other words, a court could award the landlord three times the amount that was actually owed.
This new law is a good law. Everyone, perhaps especially crime victims, should be able to feel secure in their own homes.
– Judge Gerald A. Williams is the Justice of the Peace for the North Valley Justice Court. The court’s jurisdiction includes Anthem and Desert Hills.
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