Legislation a step forward for renters fleeing abuse

By Ali Spanier

As of July 1, renters fleeing situations of interpersonal violence and abuse have new rights.

Last year alone about 760,000 Canadians reported having been either physically or sexually assaulted by their partners in the past five years. And those are just the people who’ve come forward. Despite the number dropping from nine per cent in 2004 to four per cent, domestic abuse is still a serious concern; about 60,341 people a year, many women and children, end up in shelters because they don’t feel safe at home.

Previously, tenants were not allowed to leave a rental under any condition. They had to stay until either the contract was up, or could only leave if they were kicked out.

Now under the Victims of Interpersonal Violence Amendment Act, 2017, renters will be allowed to end fixed-term tenancy agreements within a 28 day notice, if they or their family members are being abused by another resident or former resident. These tenants who are seeking a way out will require a certificate from the Ministry of Justice’s Victim Services Branch stating they, their child, or an adult under their care has been a victim of interpersonal violence or is at risk of interpersonal violence.

The certificate will be provided to the tenant by the branch upon receipt of a statement by police, a victim services agency or other professionals identified in the legislation indicating the renter or their family members are victims or potential victims. A certificate may also be issued in cases where a protective order is in place.

Once the tenant has the certificate, they can provide notice to their landlord. The tenant must provide the certificate within 90 days of it being issued.

This is a major step forward in combating interpersonal violence and abuse issues. Perhaps this new act will save countless lives.