Terminating a lease because of Domestic Violence in Washington State
When can a tenant terminate a rental agreement in domestic violence cases?A tenant who is the victim of domestic violence may terminate her rental agreement so long as she meets TWO requirements. RCW 59.18.575
FIRST, the the tenant must notify the landlord in writing that she or a household member was a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, unlawful harassment, or stalking
SECOND, The tenant or household member has a valid order for protection or has reported the domestic violence to a qualified third party. The qualified third party must provide the tenant a signed written record of the incident. When a copy of an order for protection or report signed by qualified third party is made available to the landlord, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement and quit the premises without further obligation under the rental agreement.
Who is a "qualified third-party" for purposes of reporting domestic violence?Qualified third party" means any of the following:
1) Law enforcement officers; 2) Employees of a court of the state; 3) Licensed mental health professionals or counselors; 4) Employees of crime victim/witness programs; E. Members of the clergy.
The qualified third party shall provide a report for the tenant that records the domestic violence incident. The report will be a document signed by the qualified third party stating:
(1) The tenant or/ household member notified him/her that she was a victim of domestic violence, (2) the time, date, location the act(s) occurred; (3) a brief description of the of domestic violence (4) that the tenant informed him/her of the name of the alleged perpetrator of the act(s). RCW 59.18.575
Is there a time limit in which the request to terminate the lease must be made?Yes, The request to terminate the rental agreement must occur within ninety days of the reported act, event, or circumstance that gave rise to the protective order or report to a qualified third party.
Is the tenant liable for back rent or other obligations under the lease?A tenant who terminates the rental agreement in this manner is discharged from the payment of rent for any period following the last day of the month in which the tenant leaves the residence. The tenant will remain liable for the rent for the month in which she terminated the rental agreement.
May the tenant change the locks of the residence in certain domestic violence cases?If a tenant is a victim of domestic violence by a landlord, the tenant may change the locks to her dwelling. However, Within SEVEN days of changing the locks, the tenant must deliver to the landlord. Written notice that that locks have been changed and a copy of the protection order or report by qualified third party. RCW 59.18.575 (4)(a) The tenant's rental agreement shall automatically terminates on the NINETIETH day after providing such notice, unless the tenant specifically notifies the management that she does not wish to terminate the tenancy.
What Federal Laws protect victims of domestic violence?The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a United States federal law It provides statutory protections for victims of domestic violence. Some of these provisions relate to housing matters. 42 USC Sec. 13925
What about Public Housing Authorities?Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) and Section 8 landlords are required to do a number of things pursuant to VAWA 2005 and HUD regulations.
a) May not deny persons housing due to their status as a victim of domestic violence. b) May not evict persons for criminal activity directly related to the domestic violence. c) Must respect a right to confidentiality with respect to the status of an individual See 42 U.S.C. A? 1437 HUD housing is governed by provisions in CFR Title 24.