Ending a Lease for Spousal or Sexual Violence

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Elise is afraid. Jacques, who is often aggressive, slammed the door of their apartment. He said he would come back and teach her a lesson she would not forget. Elise decides to pack up and head for a women's shelter. She wants to ensure her physical safety, but also worries about her financial situation. She signed the lease for the apartment she shares with Jacques. Can she get out of her lease?

 

I am experiencing spousal or sexual violence. Can I end my lease?

Yes, if you meet all these conditions:

  • Your safety, or that of a child living with you, is threatened because of spousal or sexual violence.
  • In the case of spousal violence, the violent behaviour must come from a spouse or former spouse (including an unmarried partner).
  • You have notified your landlord of your situation and your wish to end your lease, and have provided her with an "attestation" (see model on the Website of the Régie du logement).

Important! You do not have to file a complaint with the police to be allowed to end your lease for spousal or sexual violence.

Of course, you can always come to an agreement with your landlord to end your lease even if you do not meet all of these conditions.

 

What types of sexual violence let me end my lease?

You can request an end to your lease for all types of sexual violence, including sexual assault and threats of sexual assault, if the sexual violence means that you or a child living with you cannot safely continue to live in the same place.

It is not necessary that the sexual violence come from a spouse or former spouse.

Here are some examples of sexual violence:

  • You, or the child who lives with you, have been victims of sexual assault (including inappropriate "touching") in your home or in your neighbourhood.
  • You, or the child who lives with you, are afraid of being sexually assaulted by someone who knows your address and has previously threatened you.
  • You, or the child who lives with you, have been victims of exhibitionism (someone who shows his genitals for sexual purposes) or voyeurism (someone who spies on his neighbours to see their breasts or genital organs) in your home, building or neighbourhood.

Here is an example: Cynthia was sexually assaulted by another tenant. Cynthia relives her experience every time she sets foot in her building. Also, the attacker was released from jail while waiting his trial and moved back into his apartment in her building. Cynthia can end her lease if she takes the necessary steps.

 

What steps do I need to take to end my lease?

To legally end your lease, you must give these documents to your landlord:

  1. A document from the office of the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (or in some cases, the municipal court of Montreal) stating that you have been the victim of spousal or sexual violence and giving you the right to end to your lease. This document is officially called an "attestation."
  2. A written notice informing your landlord about your situation and your intention to end the lease.

Remember to keep proof that your landlord has actually received these documents, in case she contests the end of the lease before the Régie du logement (rental board). To prove that she received the documents, you can use registered mail, the services of a bailiff, or even hand-deliver the documents to your landlord and ask for her signature acknowledging receipt.

 

How do I get an attestation?

An attestation is a document from the office of the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (or in some cases, the municipal court of Montreal) stating that you have been the victim of spousal or sexual violence and giving you the right to end your lease.

Here's what you must do to get an attestation:

1) Complete the form Request for an attestation for the purpose of resiliating a lease on the grounds of violence or sexual assault.

This form is also available at:

  • police stations
  • shelters
  • courthouses
  • Crime Victims Assistance Centres (CAVACs)
  • Centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (CALACs)
  • integrated health and social services centres
  • hospitals
  • youth centres

In the form, you are asked to:

  • Give information about yourself (name, address, how to reach you), the place you live, your landlord, and your lease.
  • Attach a copy of your lease.
  • Explain in your own words why your safety or that of your child is threatened. You can mention all the information you think is relevant.
  • Let the person who will process your request give and receive information that might be relevant (for example, a police report, if the situation was reported to the police).

Once you have filled out the form, you must take an oath before a commissioner of oaths (judge, clerk, notary, lawyer, mayor, other authorized person) and then sign the form. By "taking an oath", you swear that what you are saying in the form is true.

To find a commissioner of oaths near you, visit the Justice Québec website.

2) In support of your request for an attestation, you must get one or more documents showing that you were the victim of spousal or sexual violence.

Examples of documents in support of a request for an attestation:

  • a copy of your statement to the police regarding the spousal or sexual violence or a copy of the police incident report
  • documents presented by a representative of a women's shelter, Crime Victims Assistance Centre (CAVAC) or Centre d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (CALAC)
  • a document issued by a doctor, social worker or other professional who has helped you

 

Where do I send my form requesting an attestation and my supporting documents?

You must send your form Request for an attestation for the purpose of resiliating a lease on the grounds of violence or sexual assault (don't forget to attach a copy of your lease!) and your supporting documents to the office of the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales or the courthouse closest to your home. To find the location of the closest courthouse, visit Justice Québec's website.

However, if you filed a complaint with the Montreal police (SPVM) for spousal or sexual violence, you must instead submit your form and supporting documents to Montreal's municipal court. Contact the investigator in charge of your file to find out where to send your request.

Your request for an attestation is confidential.

 

Can someone help me fill out my form to request an attestation?

Yes. Someone at a CAVAC (Crime Victims Assistance Centre) or CALAC (Centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel) can help you free of charge.

 

Is there a fee for the attestation?

No, you only have to pay for postage.

 

How long does it take to get an attestation?

There is no set time limit, but the law says requests for attestations must be processed quickly.

 

I got my attestation. I understand that I have to send it to my landlord with a notice. What should be in that notice?

The notice to your landlord must include:

  • the date
  • your name
  • the address of your rental unit
  • the name and address of your landlord
  • a statement that you want to resiliate (end) your lease because your safety or that of a child who lives with you is threatened by spousal or sexual violence
  • the date the lease will end
  • your signature

You can find a model notice in PDF format on the Régie du logement's website.

Remember that giving the notice and attestation to your landlord does not immediately end your lease. You are still responsible for paying the rent until the end of the lease.

 

I have sent everything to my landlord. When will my lease end?

It depends on the type of lease you have.

Lease of one year or more: lease ends two months after sending the notice to the landlord

Lease of less than one year or lease with no set length: lease ends one month after sending the notice to the landlord

During the waiting period - one month or two months, depending on your situation - you must pay the rent.

Important! You and your landlord can agree to end your lease immediately or at any other time.

You can also let your landlord find another tenant who can move in right away. If she finds a tenant who wants to move in, you will no longer have to pay your rent.

 

Can I leave before my lease officially ends?

Yes. Nothing prevents you from leaving.

However, there is a difference between "leaving" and "ending your lease". If you leave without sending an attestation and notice to the landlord, you are still legally bound by your lease and must pay your rent until the end of the lease.

If you leave after sending an attestation and notice to the landlord, you must still respect your lease and must continue to pay your rent, but only for a period of one month or two months, whichever period applies.

Leaving Without Paying the Rent

In all cases, if you leave and stop paying your rent, your landlord can get an order against you to end your lease and forcing you pay her rent you owe. This can negatively affect your finances or your credit file. Also, once she has a copy of the order, your landlord might seize your property and/or your salary.

Be aware that your landlord can end your lease without going before the Régie du logement (rental board) if:

  • you stop paying your rent, and
  • you disappear with all your belongings without telling her why you are leaving, and
  • all the circumstances show you are leaving for good.

If your landlord wants to claim unpaid rent or be reimbursed for damages you've caused, she must go to the Régie du logement.

 

I am the landlord. Do I have to agree to end the lease for spousal or sexual violence?

You can object to your tenant's request to end the lease if you do not receive an attestation of spousal or sexual violence or a notice informing you of this situation and the tenant's intention to end the lease.

If your tenant sends you these two documents, she is exercising her right to end the lease. Whether you agree or not, the lease will end in one to two months (whichever applies) after you receive the documents.

If you think that your tenant made up a false story of spousal or sexual violence to get out of the lease, and you are considering challenging the early ending of the lease with the Régie du logement, you should know that decision-makers at the Régie du logement (commissioners) attach a lot of weight to the attestation of spousal or sexual violence.

In one real case, a landlord tried to convince the commissioner that his tenant was not really a victim of spousal abuse. The commissioner refused to review the specific circumstances of the tenant. In his decision, the commissioner said that it was not up to him to examine the validity of the attestation. He had to assume that whatever was said in the attestation was true.

 

Our video Victims of Violence : Ending an Apartment Lease

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.