California Expands Early Termination Rights for Tenants Who Are Victims of Domestic Violence

California law now allows tenants to end their tenancy early when the tenant, a household member, or an immediate family member has become the victim of certain crimes

Prior to January 1, 2021, California Civil Code section 1946.7 granted tenants the right to terminate their lease or rental agreement early when they or a household member have been the victim of domestic violence and certain other crimes. As of January 1, 2021, though, the state legislature has expanded the protection available under the statute to include early termination rights when a member of the tenant's immediate family is the victim—even if the victim does not live in the rental. The state legislature has also expanded the list of crimes that justify a tenant's early termination.

Under the revised law, tenants may notify their landlord that they intend to terminate their tenancy early because the tenant, a household member, or an immediate family member was a victim of one of the following:

  • domestic violence
  • sexual assault
  • human trafficking
  • abuse of an elder or a dependent adult
  • a crime that caused bodily injury or death
  • a crime that included the exhibition, drawing, brandishing, or use of a firearm or other deadly weapon or instrument, or
  • a crime that included the use of force against the victim or a threat of force against the victim.

Tenants must give landlords a written notice to terminate with one of the following attached to the notice:

  • a copy of the temporary restraining order, emergency protection order, or protective order that protects the victim from further exposure to one of the enumerated crimes
  • a copy of a report written by a law enforcement officer acting in an official capacity stating that the individual is a victim of one of the enumerated crimes
  • documentation from a third party based on information received by the third party acting in a professional capacity that the victim is seeking assistance for physical or mental injuries or abuse resulting from one of the enumerated crimes, along with a statement from the tenant, or
  • any other form of documentation that reasonably verifies that the crime occurred.

When the victim is an immediate family member who does not live with the tenant (and the crime did not occur at the rental or within 1,000 feet of the rental), the tenant must also attach to the notice a written statement that the tenant is terminating because of a need to relocate to care for the victim.

Early termination rights under the statute do expire: The notice to terminate must be given to the landlord within 180 days of the occurrence of certain events. For example, when a tenant provides a protective order in support of the notice to terminate, the notice must be given to the landlord within 180 days of when the order was issued. As another example, when a tenant is terminating because of a crime that caused death, the notice must be given to the landlord within 180 days of the crime.

Finally, under the revised California Civil Code section 1946.7, landlords cannot refuse to rent to an otherwise qualified prospective tenant or refuse to continue to rent to an existing tenant solely because the tenant has previously exercised the tenant's rights of early termination under the statute.

Effective date: January 1, 2021.