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New Mass. Domestic Violence Law Lets Victims Break Lease

Have you read the new Massachusetts Domestic Violence Act? If you're a landlord, you might want to take a close look at this new law.

The law provides victims of domestic violence the opportunity to break their lease and move out. Essentially, victims of sexual assault and stalking are allowed by law to break their lease and not incur much financial penalty.

They're also entitled to have the landlord change their locks.

Initially, the law was seen as detrimental to landlords, as the short notice on breaking a lease was criticized. As a result, the legislators included a three-month notice period.

Here are a few more key details on the law:

The victim must file a notice with the landlord within three months of the sexual assault or the incident that caused the victim to believe they were under imminent threat of sexual assault. The landlord can ask for more information to support this complaint, but the landlord is under duty to keep this information confidential.

If the tenant moves out after providing the landlord with the proper notice, the landlord can only hold the tenant liable for rent for one full rental period (usually one month).

If the tenant does not move out, she has the right to request that the landlord change the locks. Assuming that the landlord does not change the locks within two days, the tenant can do so.

The law goes one step further, making it illegal for a landlord to discriminate against someone who terminated a previous lease because they were a victim of domestic violence.

Massachusetts has many tight laws in the landlord-tenant area. If you're a landlord or thinking of becoming one, have a look at some of our related resources below.

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