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Legal Information: District of Columbia

Housing Laws

Updated: 
April 5, 2019

I am afraid to stay in my apartment. How can I get out of my lease if I am a domestic violence victim?

If you are the tenant and you are a victim (or the parent/guardian of a victim) of domestic violence, there are two steps to getting out of your lease:

Step #1: You must have either: a protective order from the court1 or documentation (paperwork) from one of the following people saying you reported the domestic violence to them: a law enforcement officer, a domestic violence counselor, a health professional, the D.C. Housing Authority Office, or a D.C. Public Safety Officer.2

Step #2: You must give your landlord written notice that you are terminating your lease based on the domestic violence, along with a copy of the protective order or documentation described in step #1 - this must be given to the landlord within 90 days of when you reported the domestic violence incident.3

You may also want to check out our Safety Tips page for more information and ideas on how to keep yourself and your family safe.

1 D.C. Code § 42-3505.07(c)
2 D.C. Code § 42-3505.07(b)
3 D.C. Code § 42-3505.07(d) & (e)

Once I notify my landlord that I want to terminate my lease, when can I stop paying rent?

You still have to pay the rent until the lease termination becomes effective. How quickly it becomes effective depends, in part, on you.  If you carefully follow the steps described in I am afraid to stay in my apartment. How can I get out of my lease if I am a domestic violence victim?, the lease would end as soon as (whichever happens first):

  • the landlord re-rents the apartment to a new tenant or to someone who has the right to your apartment under the lease (such as your adult child who lived with you) or
  • fourteen days after you give the landlord:
    • written notice of the lease termination ordered by the judge and
    • a copy of the permanent protective order or the signed documentation from one of the following people: a law enforcement officer, a domestic violence counselor, a health professional, the D.C. Housing Authority Office, or a D.C. Public Safety Officer.1

So, the quicker you give the landlord the required documents, the quicker your lease will end.  If you do not provide all of the necessary paperwork, you have to wait until the landlord is able to re-rent the apartment, which could take a lot longer than fourteen days.

1 D.C. Code § 42-3505.07(d) & (f)