Domestic violence victims can end leases early

Over the last few weeks in the Legal Corner, we have discussed the topic of domestic violence in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Some of the topics involved the history and legislation enacted in order to protect victims of domestic violence.

This week, we will further explore the safeguards North Carolina legislators have established to assist in protecting domestic violence victims.

In North Carolina, the first line of defense for domestic violence victims are protective orders. However, there are quite a few other ways victims of domestic violence can protect themselves and their families. In some cases, victims of domestic violence need a second line of defense after obtaining a 50B protective order.

Unfortunately, some domestic violence cases involve the abuser actively stalking and harassing his or her victim. In those situations, North Carolina has certain laws to assist with providing additional protection. One of those laws is N.C. General Statute 42-45.1, which allows a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking to terminate his or rental agreement early without penalty.

This law is meant to assist those victims who are in very dangerous situations and need to immediately move to a different location in order to protect themselves and their families. Particularly, this statute allows the victim of domestic violence (the tenant) to terminate his or her rental agreement after providing the landlord with written notice at least 30 days prior to the date of termination.

This means that tenants can legally cancel or terminate their lease agreement without paying any penalties and termination fees, if they have met the following requirements.

First, the tenants should contact the local domestic violence program or service provider to receive assistance with correctly filing the necessary paperwork needed to protect themselves and their families from the abuser. The provider will assist with creating a written safety plan for the victim.

Next, the tenant must provide a written document stating he or she would like to terminate the lease agreement. Additionally, the tenant must also provide a valid copy of his or her 50B protective order against their abuser. The 50B order has to be the final order and not the initial ex-parte order, and the order must have been obtained during the tenant’s current lease.

Lastly, the tenant must give all of this documentation to his or her landlord to effectuate the process of terminating the lease.

Once the tenant has provided all the required documentation to his or her landlord, the lease should be terminated. However, the tenant could still be liable for any past-due rent and any prorated rent up until the date of termination. Moreover, if tenants choose to sublease or allow someone else to take over the lease on their behalf (if their lease permits such an arrangement), they could still be held liable for any rent or damages as a result.

Please remember that this information is only meant to inform our readers. This article does not include all of the detailed information and laws related to domestic violence and victims of domestic violence in North Carolina. If you have any additional questions about the North Carolina laws associated with protecting victims from domestic violence please consult an attorney or a local counselor.

If you are in need of assistance with getting out of a violent situation, please call local law enforcement or our local domestic violence service provider New Horizons’ crisis line at 910-557-5684. As always: Be informed. Be prepared.