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Domestic violence victims could soon be allowed to break leases without penalty

Last Updated Nov 18, 2015 at 11:20 am PDT

(iStock photo)

Vancouver looks at allowing domestic violence victims break leases without penalty

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Imagine having to leave your home because of domestic violence, and then being on the hook for all the rent you owe up to the end of your lease.

Proposed legislation aimed at fixing that is another step closer to becoming law.

“There’s a problem right now where tenants who break fixed term housing leases can have to pay their landlord the balance of the remaining rent in their contract, and they may be forced to pay for advertising to find a tenant to replace them. For low income Vancouverites in particular, these significant financial penalties can act as a deterrent for those who want to escape abuse. We think that’s a problem and there’s a better way.”

Joshua Prowse with the City of Vancouver’s Rental Advisory Committee says a bill — which would protect victims of domestic violence who break their tenancy agreements — has passed third reading in the legislature.

He adds consultation on the regulations will be important.

“And we would expect to see that happen in the coming year, now that the provincial legislature has acted.”

The committee has put together a report pushing the idea, and says third parties could confirm whether or not abuse is going on in a household.

“We in this have been building on a recommendation that’s come from the group, West Coast LEAF that focuses on advocacy for women in the legal system. And, they’ve put together a proposal where there will be certain third-party verifiers, who can attest to this sort of situation. We think of people like police, social workers, nurses, and other people who would be able to sign a form saying that yes, there’s a real issue here.”

Prowse notes Quebec, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia already have similar provisions in their legislation.