New Law to Address Family Violence by Cristen Gleeson and Cameron Longfellow

Family violence is thought to be on the rise during the Covid-19 pandemic. A new law was recently passed to try to alleviate the many damaging impacts of family violence.

Effective May 30th 2020, Bill M206-2019 amended the Residential Tenancy Act (“Tenancy Act”) to provide greater protection to renters who experience violence in their rental homes. Survivors and victims of domestic violence can now break their fixed-term lease with greater ease if staying in their suite poses a threat to their safety.

The term “occupant violence” was added to s 45.1 of the Tenancy Act. Occupant violence is a broad term that includes all renters: the tenant, a dependent of the tenant or other occupant of the rental unit. The fixed-term lease may be broken if the safety of any renter or occupant of the unit is compromised by staying in the rental unit. For example, a renter may terminate their fixed term lease if they were victimized by a neighbor. Prior to the amendments this would not have been possible as s 45.1 was limited to the renter, or a dependent, experiencing domestic abuse by a family member only.

In addition, the new legislation makes it much easier for a victim to contact a person with authority to verify the domestic violence required to break the fixed-term lease. A victim can now contact a range of persons with authority within the regulations such as: judicial personnel, medical practitioners, and victim service professionals, rather than only the police. This will provide a victim with multiple routes to report the abuse to whoever the safest option may be.

These changes are timely as COVID-19 remains a global pandemic. Domestic violence is thought to be on the rise. These amendments will greatly increase the accessibility of protection for person’s needing to flee family violence. If you are experiencing family violence please contact our office about obtaining an urgent protection order.