Survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Ontario can now break leases more easily

Ontario has passed a bill that makes it easier for survivors of domestic abuse to break their leases.

Survivors of domestic and sexual violence living in Ontario can now break leases more easily and more quickly.

The Liberal government passed Tuesday a sweeping bill to better combat sexual violence and harassment in the province. Among its provisions is a change that allows survivors to give just 28 days notice before breaking a lease, which is less than half the time previously required.

The final vote coincided with International Women’s Day and the bill provides a number of new protections to women in the province (as well as male and non-binary survivors).

Ontario tenants who want to break a lease must provide at least 60 days notice under the law and the agreement must always end on the last day of the month. But under the new rules survivors (or mothers or fathers of child victims) can break a lease with just 28 days notice and without being tied to a specific date on the calendar.

This halves the time required to break a lease if someone is fleeing a domestic violence situation or suffered sexual assault or harassment at the hands of a fellow tenant or needs to move to ensure his or her safety. It’s an important move advocates have said will make it easier and safer for women, men and children to flee abusers.

It’s not as simple as claiming that’s the reason, however. The new law does require tenants give landlords some documentation, for example, a restraining order. That might make it harder for some survivors to find safe harbour, but the government says it was an important balance to strike.

The point of the change was to make it easier and less costly for survivors to flee the current situation without penalizing landlords. The 28 day notice can be given from afar, a government spokesperson said, but it’s basically set up so that the landlord can retain last month’s rent, as would be the case whenever a lease is broken.