A tenant may generally terminate his or her tenancy where the tenant, or a household member, is or was a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Definition of Terms
Domestic Violence is defined as abuse perpetrated against any of the following: spouse/former spouse; cohabitant/former cohabitant; current or former boyfriend/girlfriend (dating); child/child's parent; family member.
"Abuse" is defined very broadly and includes intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, sexual assault, and placing a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury.
Sexual Assault generally includes any sexual intercourse, oral copulation, or penetration against the will of another or of a minor.
Stalking is a pattern of conduct with the intent to follow, alarm, or harass a person resulting in that person reasonably fearing for safety or the safety of an immediate family member. A household member is any member of the tenant's family who lives in the same household as the tenant.
Procedures to Terminate
In order for a tenant victim to terminate the tenancy, the tenant must comply with certain procedural requirements:
1. Written Notice
The tenant must give the landlord written notice of intent to terminate and attach either of the following:
a. Temporary Restraining Order or Emergency Protective Order: The tenant must present the landlord with a copy one of these orders protecting the tenant or household member from further domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
b. Police Report. The tenant must present the landlord with a copy of a law enforcement officer's written report stating that the tenant or household member filed a report alleging that he or she is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
2. Length of Notice
A termination notice must give at least 30 days advance notice of vacating.
3. Timing of Written Notice
The termination notice must be given within 6 months after the court order or police report.
The tenant shall remain liable for the rent for 30 days. If the tenant vacates earlier than 30 days and does not pay the rent, then the landlord has a duty to try to mitigate the damages - the landlord must make reasonable efforts to re-rent the unit.
5. Effect on Other Tenants
If there are other tenants residing in the same unit as the victim, then the termination by the victim does not relieve the other tenants from their obligations of the tenancy. In other words, their tenancy is not terminated.
6. Month-to-Month Tenants
The law permits a tenant who is renting a unit on a month-to-month basis to simply terminate a tenancy with a written 30-day notice without stating any reason or basis. So the domestic violence laws would typically only apply when a tenant is seeking to terminate a tenancy during an applicable lease period.
Prohibition Against Landlord Terminating
A Landlord is generally prohibited from terminating or failing to renew a tenancy where the tenant or household member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking so long as both of the following apply:
1. The acts of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking are documented by a restraining or protective order or by a police report within the last 6 months.
2. The person against whom the restraining or protective order or who was named in the police report is NOT a tenant of the same dwelling unit as the tenant or household member.
An exception does exist. Notwithstanding the above prohibition, a landlord may terminate or decline to renew a tenancy if both of the following apply:
1. The tenant allows the offending person to visit the property or the landlord reasonably believes that the presence of the offending person poses a physical threat to other tenants or guests or to a tenant's right to quiet possession.
2. The landlord has given the tenant at least three days notice to correct the violation.
Many concerns may arise when a landlord has tenants involved in an abusive situation. For instance, such an environment may not only endanger the health and safety of the tenants involved, but it may endanger other tenants in the building and neighbors. It may disturb the peace and enjoyment of others. It may also result in physical damage to property. In some circumstances and subject to the above restrictions, a landlord may have other grounds to evict the tenant. For instance, a landlord may evict a tenant with a 3 day notice when the tenant violating the rental agreement or is committing or permitting to exist a nuisance.
Be careful - some California cities have rent and eviction control for tenants, which may impose additional requirements on the landlord/tenant relationship and grounds for evictions.