Alberta lawmakers unanimously passed an amendment to the Residential Tenancies Act that requires landlords to allow victims of domestic violence to terminate leases early. This law was proclaimed in August and is now in effect.
The new rule allows victims to flee a rental property and seek “safer spaces” without suffering financial consequences under the tenancy agreement.
One in three Alberta residents will experience domestic violence, but only one in ten will report the abuse, according to a statement by Status of Women Minister Stephanie McLean.
Under the new amendment, domestic violence can include physical, sexual, emotional or economic abuse. The law applies where the safety of the tenant — or another dependent person in the household — is at risk.
The law requires a victim to obtain a “Safer Spaces” certificate from the appropriate government agency. To apply for a certificate, the tenant will have to provide either a copy of a restraining order, or a statement from a professional confirming the risk of violence. Examples of authorized professionals include health workers, the police, and victim advocates.
The certificate, along with written notice to terminate the tenancy, must be presented to the landlord at lease 28 days prior to the termination. The notice must be given no later than 90 days from the date the safer spaces certificate is issued. The notice must be personally service or delivered via registered mail.
The tenancy must be terminated on the date stated in the notice. The tenant is still liable for rent during that time period. If requested, the landlord must apply the security deposit as rent payment for the 28-day notice period.
Landlords have a number of obligations under the new rule:
A landlord must keep the information provided by the tenant confidential. The landlord is prohibited from discussing the matter with other tenants unless the tenant asks the landlord to disclose this information to others. Also, a landlord may be required to speak to law enforcement investigators.
The tenant may be liable for any previous rent, utility payments or costs owing for damage to the property.
In the event that the victim lived with other tenants, the lease will be terminated with respect to those tenants as well. It is the landlord’s responsibility to notify the remaining tenants of the termination. The landlord is free to renegotiate a new lease with the remaining tenants.
A landlord can dispute the termination on a “safer spaces” certificate if there was insufficient notice provided, or other defects in the notice.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.