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Know the Laws: California

UPDATED July 11, 2014

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This section discusses a law that allows a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, abuse of an elder or dependent adult, or human trafficking to break his/her rental lease without penalty.  Note: In January 2014, the law changed to add victims of human trafficking to the list of people who may qualify for these housing protections.

Basic info

back to topWhat is a housing law?

There are many different housing laws that involve rights of tenants and landlords.  The housing law described in this section provides tenant protections for victims of certain crimes and their household members.

There is a housing law in California that allows you (the tenant) to terminate your lease before it expires if you or a member of your family/household is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, abuse of an elder or dependent adult or human trafficking.  However, the family member must live in the same household as you (the tenant).*

If you are not sure if you qualify as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, abuse of an elder or dependent adult, or human trafficking, you can click on each highlighted term to read the definitions.  For the purposes of this housing law, "sexual assault" is defined as any of the following crimes: rape, unlawful sexual intercourse with person under 18, rape of a spouse, sodomy, oral copulation, or forcible acts of sexual penetration.*

Note: If you are a victim of one of these crimes mentioned above, and you are not asking to terminate your lease (meaning you want to stay in your apartment), there still may be reasons why a landlord can terminate your tenancy even if you are a victim.  To read what the law says about when a landlord can terminate a victim's tenancy, go to our CA Statutes page. 

If you are not a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, abuse of an elder or dependent adult, or human trafficking but have questions about your housing rights, here are some links that may be useful: for information on an anti-discrimination law called the Fair Housing Act, click here; for basic tenants' rights with contact info for legal assistance, click here

* Cal.Civ.Code § 1946.7(a)

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back to topWho is protected under this housing law?

You can get protection if you meet both of the following:

  1. You (the tenant) were a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, abuse of an elder or dependent adult, or human trafficking or a member of your family was a victim of one of these acts and s/he lives with you;* and
  2. You must have one of the following documents that was issued within the last 180 days:**
    • a temporary restraining order, emergency protective order or protective order from the court that protects you or your household member from further domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or abuse of an elder or dependent adult or human trafficking; or
    • a copy of a written report from a peace officer stating that you or your family member filed a report due to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or abuse of an elder or dependent adult or human trafficking; or
    • documentation on official letterhead from a qualified third party (such as a counselor, case worker, psychologist, doctor, etc.) based on information s/he received while acting in his/her professional capacity, which says that the tenant or household member is seeking assistance for physical or mental injuries or abuse resulting from an act of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking, elder abuse, or dependent adult abuse.***  Note: To see the complete list of who could be a "qualified third party" and to see what the documentation that s/he writes must include, look at section (b)(3)(B) of the law where it says "Qualified Third Party Statement," here.
* Cal.Civ.Code §1946.7(a),(g)
** Cal.Civ.Code §1946.7(c)
*** Cal.Civ.Code §1946.7(b)

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back to topIf I get my lease terminated, how will this affect my roommates?

If you have a roommate(s) who is listed as a tenant on the lease, your roommate(s) will not be affected if your lease obligations are terminated under this law.  Your roommate is still bound by the lease even if you are allowed to get out of your lease.*

* Cal.Civ.Code §1946.7(f)

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back to topIf I reveal that I am a victim to my landlord, can s/he tell other people?

A landlord is not allowed to share any information that you provide unless:

  • you consent in writing;
  • the law or a court order requires the landlord to so do; or
  • the person that the landlord is talking to is the "qualified third party" who provided the written documentation for you that states that you are a victim; the landlord is allowed to call that person to verify what is written in the documentation.*
* Cal.Civ.Code § 1946.7(h)(1)

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