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New Law in Arizona: Sexual Assault Victims No Longer Trapped in Their Lease

Domestic abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, rape…as a victim and survivor, you face unique fears and triggers. When your financial situation forces you to continue living next door to your assailant, you can suffer serious mental and emotional strife, as well as fear for your safety. This is exactly what made one Arizona woman take a stand and change the state’s lease laws. Thanks to her initiative, the law will never trap a sexual assault survivor in a lease in Arizona again.

Were you recently accused of domestic violence? If so, get the help of a domestic violence lawyer in Scottsdale today.

What Does the New Law Say?

As of August 3rd, 2018, Arizona sexual assault victims may lawfully break their leasing agreements at a rented home or apartment without having to pay termination fees. Termination fees can total thousands of dollars – making it impossible for many people to live elsewhere after suffering sexual assault or rape in their homes or neighborhoods. The victim who sparked the new law (who chose to remain anonymous) went to state lawmakers after her landlord refused to let her break the lease without paying termination fees after a neighbor assaulted her.

The victim’s financial situation would not let her pay the termination fees – virtually trapping her in a home where she felt unsafe, right next to her assailant. Luckily, the woman hired a lawyer who wrote the landlord a letter and convinced him to let her break the lease. After that, she went to Rep. Daniel Hernandez to sponsor a bill to prevent future sexual assault victims from going through the same hardship. Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill into law in May 2018.

The new law – House Bill 2651 – amends an existing law that permits domestic abuse or domestic rape victims to break their leases without penalties. HB2651 updates the language of the law to include victims of sexual assault. The law states: “A tenant may terminate a rental agreement if he/she gives a written notice to the landlord that he/she was the victim, in the tenant’s dwelling, of sexual assault.” It states that “liability for future rent and early termination fees” will not be incurred if the victim provides the notice within 30 days of the assault. To learn more about this, speak to a Scottsdale sexual assault attorney.

How to Break Your Lease After Sexual Assault in Arizona

If someone sexually assaulted you in your home and you no longer feel safe there, you now have the right to move households without financial penalties. However, you must act quickly to benefit from this right. Within 30 days of the sexual assault crime, you must give your landlord written notice of the assault and of your desire to vacate the home or apartment without penalty. You must include one of the following with your notice:

  1. A copy of a protective order. You may have to visit the court and request a protective order of some kind against your assailant. This order will force your assailant to stay away from you, as well as provide evidence of the crime to your landlord. Your landlord may also need a receipt or proof that you submitted the order of protection to the court.
  2. A copy of a written police report stating the tenant was a victim of sexual assault. Call 911 or visit a local police station to report the sexual assault as soon as possible after the incident. Write down your police report number and keep a copy of your written report to submit to your landlord later.

Under the new law, if you choose to move out early, you will not have to reimburse your landlord for early lease termination, unpaid rent, or repairs to damage on the premises. You may have longer than 30 days only if your landlord agrees to waive this deadline (get written confirmation from your landlord if this is the case).

The new law also gives sexual assault victims the right to request the landlord to install a new lock, for which the tenant will pay. Note: if you try to break your lease using false information, you will be liable for triple damages to your landlord. Contact an Arizona criminal defense attorney for more information.