Victims of domestic abuse can now successfully terminate a tenancy agreement by presenting their landlord with a certificate verifying they are at risk.
The Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence amendment to the Residential Tenancies Act is a groundbreaking reform bill that was introduced by Calgary MLA Deborah Drever last November.
The amendment officially came into effect on Aug. 8th.
“I brought this bill forward because finances should never be a barrier to fleeing violence. These changes will make a real difference for survivors of domestic abuse. I am honoured it passed unanimously and that it is now the law,” said Drever.
A tenant who is in danger may now obtain a certificate explaining their situation and present it to their landlord in order to remove themselves from their current living situation without penalty.
To get a certificate, a tenant must give the ministry of Human Services an emergency protection order, a peace bond or statement from a certified professional – a doctor, nurse, social worker, psychologist – confirming that the tenant or their children are in danger. This means there are a variety of ways for victims to get the documentation they need.
Minister of Service Alberta and Status of Women Stephanie McLean said this legislation is an extremely important step for the safety of Albertans.
“Fleeing family violence can be difficult, and comes with a range of emotions and issues, including financial stress. Our priority is to get those Albertans who fear for their safety, into a safer space to live, while severing their ties to their abusers, so they can begin the healing process and rebuild their lives,” said McLean.
“This legislation is critical to not only the victim of domestic violence, but also their family members who may also be at risk. By providing support to the children and any dependant adults in the home, we are freeing the victim from that worry.”
She added Alberta has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Canada and the government is strengthening supports for families through this legislation.
Barb Barber, executive director of Women’s Outreach in Red Deer, said this legislation is key to removing barriers for victims of domestic violence in leaving their situations.
“Victims of domestic violence endure incredibly high levels of stress and there are many reasons why people do not leave abusive situations – one of those reasons being housing/finances. The consequences of breaking a lease agreement is not as simple as one thinks,” Barber said.
“If the landlord is not sympathetic and understanding, breaking a lease agreement results in an increased burden financially, future tenancy references are placed in jeopardy and possible court involvement could be involved if the landlord chooses to pursue that course of action.”
She said when finances are already a cause for someone to not leave an abusive situation, the stress of breaking a residential tenancy agreement can add to the stress and decision to stay.
“The Residential Tenancies (Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence) Amendment Act is providing opportunities for victims of domestic violence to alleviate barriers allowing them to make the steps to leave and seek safety,” she said.
“No individual or child should live in a violent home and we should do what we can to make leaving easier. This Act is such a relief and support for the families we serve and families in Central Alberta. Any time we can remove barriers for victims of violence and support them to leave the relationship and seek safety and security we are moving in the right direction.”