Change in Ontario law allows domestic violence victims to break their leases early

The change allows a victim of domestic abuse to terminate a lease in 28 days, instead of the required 60 days.
The change allows a victim of domestic abuse to terminate a lease in 28 days, instead of the required 60 days. (Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

The Ontario government recently made a change to the Residential Tenancies Act that allows victims of domestic or sexual violence to terminate their leases early to help them leave their abusers.

The change took effect on September 8, 2016 and allows a victim of domestic abuse to terminate a lease in 28 days, instead of the required 60 days.

Ontario’s change to the tenancies act follows Alberta’s change last month. Just like in Ontario, a victim of abuse is allowed to give a landlord 28 days’ notice before leaving, as long as they provide the landlord with a certificate confirming that they are domestic violence victims.

In Ontario, too, the victim has to give the landlord notice together with proof that they are in a domestically or sexually abusive situation through either a “Tenant’s Statement About Sexual or Domestic Violence and Abuse,” or a copy of a court order.

Though it’s commendable that the Ontario government is thinking about ways to help domestic or sexual violence victims leave abusive situations, is allowing them to shorten the notice period by one month really going to make a great difference? And what happens after they leave?

While some people like Kitchener paralegal Shaun Harvey have praised the new law saying, “it’s a huge step forward for women’s rights”, others are not so quick.

In fact, there is quite a bit of criticism saying that the law falls short in helping victims of domestic and sexual violence.

"It's nice to have the right to flee, but without somewhere to flee to, I don't think this solves the problem. There's a general lack of affordable housing, a lack of funding for emergency services for women facing domestic violence — these are real barriers," Kenneth Hale, the legal director of advocacy at Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, told CBC News.

Adds Toronto Councillor Shelley Carroll, "Lots needs to happen once they're out the door. . .If you're out and now you're a single parent, you've suddenly got to make sure that you have work because you're the only person who's going to be paying rent.”

This new law may be a step in the right direction but there are still many miles to go.

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