New law allows victims of domestic violence to end leases early

Thanks to new legislation introduced by Calgary MLA Deborah Drever, those in abusive relationships can break rental agreements early by providing landlords with a certificate verifying they are at risk.

Monday, Aug 15, 2016 06:00 am
By: Joel Dryden
Victims of domestic violence now have the option to break lease agreements early thanks to new legislation introduced by Calgary MLA Deborah Drever.
The new bill – dubbed the Residential Tenancies (Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence) Amendment Act – allows survivors to break leases early when they present their landlords with a certificate verifying they are at risk. The law came into effect Aug. 8.
Constable Courtney Currie, domestic violence co-ordinator with Cochrane RCMP, said the new legislation was a “great step forward.”
“(It’s great) both financially and in securing a safe space to live,” she said. “A lot of victims do stay because they can’t get out financially.”
The bill was first introduced by Drever on Nov. 15, 2015.
“I brought this bill forward because finances should never be a barrier to fleeing violence,” Drever said in a release. “These changes will make a real difference for survivors of domestic abuse. I am honoured it passed unanimously and that today, it’s the law.”
Those looking to break leases must acquire certificates, which are available from the ministry of Human Services. Tenants must give the ministry a peace bond, emergency protection order or statement from a certified professional, including a doctor, social worker or psychologist.
“Obviously, (everyone) needs a safe space to live,” Currie said. “So this allows them to get out of those abusive relationships without the financial penalties.”
Under the new regulations, those who utilize the new legislation will also be connected with other support services. According to a release, a total of 1,064 emergency protection orders were issued in the province from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016.
According to Sabrine Koudmani, program co-ordinator with Cochrane and Area Victims Services, the organization has received 450 new case files so far this year.
“We’re going to be way over what we were last year,” she said.
In 2015, the organization received a total of 501 new case files. Koudmani attributed the continuous increase to a number of factors, including a good relationship with the RCMP.
“The economy has had a lot to do with it. We’re seeing more domestic violence files in the past few months, and I think that has a lot to do with extra stresses added on households,” she said. “Cochrane is a growing community, and the community surrounding it is growing. But without looking directly at the numbers, it’s hard to know the nature of the (increase).”