Breaking a Lease Due To Domestic Violence
If you are in a living situation where you are a victim of domestic violence or battery from a partner or roommate, your first instinct in most cases is to remove yourself from the situation and find new, safer housing. But what if you are locked into a lease with your batterer? Let’s delve into this matter.
Under Florida law, there is no requirement for a landlord to let a tenant out of his or her lease in cases of domestic violence or domestic battery. However, there are many reasons why it is a wise decision on the part of the landlord to allow early termination of a lease in such situations.
Even though the battered tenant may have gone to the court and obtained a restraining order to protect himself or herself from the abuser, there is no way to guarantee that the perpetrator will abide by the order and remain away from the premises as there are many cases where restraining orders have been disregarded by the perpetrator. Suppose the perpetrator returns to the premises and assaults the tenant in violation of the restraining order, resulting in serious injuries or even the death of the tenant. The victim or his or her estate would have the legal grounds to bring a lawsuit against the landlord for injuries and damages sustained on the grounds that the landlord refused to allow the tenant to break his or her lease in order to relocate to safer housing away from the abuser.
In cases that a landlord does allow the tenant an early termination of the lease, the responsibility of the landlord to protect the safety of the tenant does not end at this point. According to the Fair Housing Act, in instances where a tenant relocated due to a domestic violence situation, the landlord is prohibited by the provision from disclosing any information about the tenant, their previous lease with the property, or any forwarding information without the express written permission of the tenant. The landlord may share the information with only one employee or agent only if such disclosure is necessary for business purposes. Any landlord that is guilty of violating this provision can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 for violating the Fair Housing Act.
Under Florida law, issues arising from the early termination of a lease in cases of domestic violence or domestic battery are handled on a case by case basis. This means that in the event the case is taken to court it is left to the judge’s discretion, not the law, to determine whether the landlord is required to allow the early termination of the lease.
Due to this fact, if you find yourself in a domestic violence situation and your landlord is enforcing your lease, DO NOT stay in an unsafe situation! Get yourself to a safe location and call our office for help. Let us walk you through the process of presenting your case to a judge and allowing you to get to safer housing. We will fight for you.